After approximately a three hour drive, we arrived in the beautiful small town of Melnik. Letter F on Map. We had booked two nights here, so it would give us a full day to explore this quaint little town. Apart from its beauty, another reason we visited is that it is situated near the amazing Rila Monastery. More on that later.
The town is an architectural reserve and 96 of its buildings are cultural monuments, which is quite amazing for such a small place, and with only 385 inhabitants. It is also the smallest town in Bulgaria. The town is situated having the backdrop of the Pirin mountain range. Also closer to the town are the Melnik Earth Pyramids, which surround the town. These limestone rock formations known as Hoodoos are a spectacular sight, I suggest you walk up to the highest point of the town to get the best view of them.
After checking into our hotel, Hotel Despot Slav, a really lovely hotel built in keeping with the traditional Bulgarian architecture around it. We decided to explore the town. We found a really nice Meyhane (Bar/Restaurant) and settled down for a drink. Not only that, but we were greeted by the lovely owners, an elderly Bulgarian couple called Sophia and Tom. And had a lovely afternoon and early evening chatting with them, over plenty of glasses of lovely Bulgarian wine. We enjoyed their company so much we went back the next day. Tom and his wife Sophia showed us around their lovely restaurant and wine cellar, when we left they even gave us a bottle of wine to take with us. A lovely gesture. On our trip around the country, we had many encounters with some really lovely Bulgarian people, they are such friendly and helpful people.
There are a couple of sights to see in the town, these are:-
Even though there are not many sights in the town, it is a must-see on any Bulgarian road trip. The quaintness and the architecture are enough on its own, and the people are so welcoming.
We left Melnik early the next morning for our drive to the Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better known as the Rila Monastery, which was about a two-hour drive from Melnik towards our final destination, Sophia. Letter H on the map. Founded in the 10th century, and also regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments, and attracts some 1 million visitors a year. It’s also depicted on the back of the 1 lev note. Words cannot describe this amazing place, its architecture, the people and the overall ambiance of the town, all I will say that it is a must-visit.
Arrive early before the coaches. We got there around 10am, as you can imagine the place gets very busy indeed. Entrance at the time of our visit was free, car parking was 5 lev around £2.00. Visit the Monastery bakery, and have breakfast at the little restaurant and admire the views. Next stop Sophia