Melnik – Beautiful Geology and Tasty Wine

Situated in southwestern part of the country and almost to the border of Greece, Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria. Nestled at the base of the foothills of the Pirin Mountains, we wanted to visit Melnik for two reasons – awesome geology and delicious wine.

The Pirin Mountains in the distance

The town is surrounded by the Melnik Rock Pyramids. Spanning an area of 17 square kilometers, these sandstone pyramids are eroded into forms resembling giant mushrooms, ancient towers, and obelisks. Everyday we picked a new trail and set out to explore. Climbing to the top of the rock pyramids often bestowed a magnificent view of the Pirin Mountains.

Standing on one of the heavily eroded Rock Pyramids


Dan peering at the Pirins.

View of the tiny town of Melnik from above

Looking into Mitko Shestaka wine cellar which is dug into the sandstone above town

Melnik has been producing wine since 1346. Winston Churchill loved the wine from this area so much that he used to get it shipped to him by the barrel. After a day of hiking we stopped into Mitko’s Winery. The cellar, like many others in town, was dug 200 years ago into the sandstone that surrounds the town. The sandstone keeps the wine cellar at temperatures between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius (depending on the season) making it an optimal place to store wine.

At Mitko Shestaka you can taste Melnik wine directly from the wooden barrels. The wine is not aged and is meant to be drunk and enjoyed and not bottled and preserved.  We sampled a few varieties and then settled in with a flask of wine and a plate of local salami and cheese.

The view from Mitko Shestaka wine cellar

Ruins of Despot Slav’s Fortress, built in the 11th century

Ruins of an 11th century church in the hills above Melnik

Our three days in Melnik seemed too short and we wished we could have stayed a bit longer. Hiking in the mornings and sipping wine and eating cheese in the afternoons was seemed to suit us just right. Alas, we had to hit the road since we had a flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia to catch. But before our flight, we decided to spend a brief weekend in Thessaloniki, Greece.  It was on the way, after all 🙂

3 thoughts on “Melnik – Beautiful Geology and Tasty Wine

  1. I spent only a day in Melnik 20 years ago. I remember it as being beautiful, but I was not so fortunate as you to explore so much. Now I’m nostalgic and want to go back. Thank you for sharing your journey and your wonderful photos.


  2. ohhh to have a wine cellar dug out from stone.
    the fins on those mountains are interesting. I love how the rock matches your skin tones with the “viewing” shots.


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