Along with its picturesque harbour, Bellapais is generally considered one of the pearls of North Cyprus attractions. Beautifully set on a natural terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, the village is garlanded in flowers which bloom year round. Set in the most advantageous location, is the half-ruined abbey from which the village takes it name. The Abbey de la Paix, whose name was corrupted into the ‘Bellapais’ of today, is possibly the finest example of Gothic architecture in the whole of the eastern Mediterranean. The parts that did not fall into ruin are in surprisingly good repair and the large and sturdy refectory is still used regularly for classical music concerts and opera today. The acoustics are excellent and the atmosphere superb, so check with Tourist Information and, if your dates permit it, try to catch a concert. Best of all, some of them are free!
The fame of the village rests almost as much on the British writer Lawrence Durrell as on the abbey. He wrote his autobiographical book “Bitter Lemons,” chronicling the descent of British colonial Cyprus into insurrection and eventual independence in the 1950s. A plaque marks the house he lived in between 1953-56.
The pleasant square leading to the abbey car park with its spectacular view of the northern coast is well served with cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. The village is hilly and the trek around it will leave you requiring refreshment, so, as you sit in the shade of the trees sipping your Turkish coffee, ponder this: in the late 19th century the British actually considered demolishing the then rather sorry ruins in order to obtain building stone. However, they found the stones unsuitable as they were apparently too soft and so the ruins were restored instead.