Bellapais village and monastery Northern Cyprus

Bellapais Monastery

Bellapais is a small village in the hills above the resort town of Kyrenia on Cyprus' north coast. The village owes much of its popularity to the beautiful surrounding countryside, immortalized by Lawrence Durrell in Bitter Lemons. The celebrated book introduced the world to the haphazard charms of Cyprus in the 1950s and there's been a steady stream of visitors ever since. In Bellapais itself, something of the flavour of this bygone age remains and it is easy to spend hours meandering about the streets admiring the panoramic views down to the coast.

Bellapais Abbey

Bellapais has another major draw card that attracts scores of visitors; the romantic half ruined abbey that gives the town its name. Founded in the late twelfth century by the Augustinians, the abbey dominates the tumbling terraced houses in its shadow and is recognised as one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in the country. The thirteenth century church and fourteenth century cloister are still intact and well worth a visit, whilst the other ruined sections lend the site a pleasantly melancholy and slightly eerie atmosphere.

After wandering the abbey there are a number of cafes and bars where you can quench your thirst and while away an hour or two. When visiting Bellapais, Lawrence Durrell was warned not to spend too long in the shade of the 'Tree of Idleness' (an ancient mulberry) in case he succumbed, like many before him, to its soporific spell. And tourists would do well to heed this advice as a short visit to Bellapais is easily extended into a lengthy sojourn. Durrell once worried about committing 'an act of fearful temerity in trying to settle in so fantastic a place'; a temptation that is felt by many visitors that have followed in his wake.

One considered one of Cyprus' most beautiful villages, Bellapais sits amogst copious citrus groves. While there are a couple of places worth visiting such as the renowned Bellapais Abbey and the St Kilarion Castle, as a whole it is a rather quiet village.

Bellapais is easily visited as a day trip from Kyrenia, or can be used as a base itself to explore the surrounding region. The ancient crusader castle of St Hilarion is nearby and the attractive settlements of Ozankoy and Catalkoy are very close to the village. For those wanting to stay in Bellapais itself there are several up market holiday companies that rent villas in the area and a handful of hotels to choose from.

The area is very popular with British visitors and is one of the few remaining parts of the island that seems to have escaped the ravages of mass Cyprus Tourism.