Bellapais Abbey

Top choice in Cyprus

The exquisite ruins of this Augustinian monastery are reason enough to drive up the mountain to Bellapais. It was built in the 12th century by monks fleeing Palestine after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin (Selahaddin Eyyubi) in 1187. They called the monastery Abbaye de la Paix (Abbey of Peace), from which the corrupted version of the name, Bellapais, evolved.

The original structure, built between 1198 and 1205, was augmented between 1267 and 1284, during the reign of Hugh III. The cloisters and large refectory were added after that by Hugh IV (1324–59), and these embellishments are most of what remains today.

The 13th-century church is in fine condition, and remains much as it was in 1976, when the last of the stoic Orthodox faithful had to leave.

Behind is the 14th-century cloister lined with towering cypress trees and rimmed with Gothic-arched arcades that have survived the centuries almost intact. From here there are stairs up to the rooftop where you can savour tumbling views across the plains down to the sea. On the western side of the cloister is the kitchen court which has all but a few walls remaining.

The refectory on the north side of the cloister is frequently used for gatherings, events and wedding photos. Note the lintel above the main entrance with its Lusignan coat of arms.