Bellapais is a spectacular and timeless hamlet in Northern Cyprus that must be seen during any holiday to the region. The village became well-known in recent history thanks to the novelist Lawrence Durrell, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus about it. Bellapais Abbey is undoubtedly one of the most impressive attractions in the area, with its magnificent architecture.
Bellapais Abbey was first established as the Abbaye de la Paix by Augustinian monks in around 1187. The first major work took approximately seven years, and subsequent major improvements were made between 1267 and 1284. Between 1324 and 1359, substantial development occurred at Bellapais Abbey, which became known as the Abbaye de la Paix. Before settling on ‘Bellapais,’ the name of the village had been changed to Bellapais during Venetian rule of Cyprus and later to Bellapaix before finally adopting its current name of “Bellapais.”‘ In Cyprus, just like anywhere else in the world.
The Lusignans greatly esteemed the abbey and believed it held a fragment of the true cross. However, when the Genoese overran Cyprus in 1373, they looted its treasures and neglected the monks, who fell into decline. The Ottoman rule of Cyprus around 1750 gave the monastery to the Greek Orthodox Church, evicting the monks. Although now under church protection, divide between Greeks and Turks onthe island has left teh chapel in disrepair since 1974.
In common with most ancient buildings in the Mediterranean region, Bellapais Abbey was often used as a source of building materials for inhabitants of the surrounding villages in the past. Nevertheless, its location and the sheer scale of construction means much of the abbey remains in excellent condition. Perched high in the mountains, the site was obviously chosen for security and offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean coast of Northern Cyprus. The Abbey is open to visitors and its upper parts offer breath-taking vistas. A visit at night is also a memorable experience, as the whole structure is lit from below and towers majestically above its surroundings.
The Abbey has been utilized as a concert venue once again since the huge refectory makes an ideal and atmospheric performance spot. The ‘Bellapais Music Festival,’ which is considered the world’s most prestigious classical music event, is held here every year. Art exhibitions are frequently hosted in the halls and areas of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
An opera performance in the courtyard is a night to remember, as is a meal at one of the nearby lodgings. Above all, Bellapais Abbey has an atmosphere of peace and calm that you can almost touch. It’s probably best summed up by Durrell himself: “Bellapaix, even when it was in ruins, was a testament to those who had tried, however poorly, to grasp and retain their grip on the inner substance of the imagination,” which resides in thinking, reflection, serenity.”
Nestled a few miles away from Kyrenia, Bellapais Abbey is easily accessible from The Hideaway Club Hotel. Although the village features narrow streets without any public transport, taxis are always available. In addition, there is a large parking lot situated at the bottom of the abbey. If you’re interested in learning more about this historic place, guided tours are an option. Lastly, should you have any questions regarding events hosted here during your vacation in North Cyprus—don’t hesitate to reach out!