Explore one of the most unspoilt regions of the Mediterranean on this walking trip through North Cyprus' beautiful Besparmak Mountains. Follow quiet, flower-rich mountain trails and discover imposing ruined castles, with stunning cobalt sea backdrops. Bellapais - Explore the famous twelfth century Crusader abbey Mediterranean food - Enjoy the fresh flavours of mezes at local restaurants Buffavento - Spectacular views from this less visited castle
Our trip begins in Bellapais, close to pretty Bellapais village where there are craft shops, restaurants, cafes and the ruins of Bellapais Abbey. For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 8pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Bellapais at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into either Ercan Airport (North Cyprus ECN) a 25 minutes' drive from the hotel or Larnaca Airport (Cyprus LCA) and 1.5 hours' drive. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up. If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you could choose to explore Bellapais village a short walk up the hill or head into Kyrenia to sample some excellent North Cyprus food and explore the town's eclectic mix of Venetian facades, mosques and minarets. Kyrenia is particularly famous for its 'picture postcard' vista of its striking Crusader castle and old harbour set against the dramatic backdrop of the Besparmak Mountains. Our base for the week is Bellapais Monastery Village, located on the hill above Kyrenia with views down to the coast and within walking distance of Bellapais village and the abbey. The hotel facilities include an indoor and outdoor pool, bar and rooftop restaurant. The comfortable rooms are all en-suite with air conditioning and a balcony or terrace.
Our main briefing will be after breakfast this morning before we drive along the coast to Kantara Castle, through a beautiful rural landscape of green fields, olive groves and small villages. En route, we will stop off at Cyprus' largest cavern, Incirli Cave, to see its impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites along its 100 metre passage. Kantara Castle has seen its fair share of conflict over the centuries. Indeed, Richard the Lionheart won a famous victory here when he defeated the self-proclaimed king of the island, Isaac Komnenos, after the latter's ill-judged slight against Richard's fiancée. After visiting the castle, we have lunch and then enjoy a walk around the varied landscape of the stunning Karpaz Peninsula upon which the castle stands. The descent is gradual with spectacular coast views, can see Turkey on a clear day. Before driving back to the hotel, we will have the opportunity to swim and relax on the beautiful sandy Kaplica beach. Today's easy seven-and-a-half kilometre walk is expected to take around two hours with 50 metres of ascent and 450 metres of descent.
Today a short drive takes us to the start of our first walk in the Besparmak Mountains. From the Arapkoy area, we will walk through the mountains to Bellapais village, taking a picnic lunch en route in the forest. Made famous by Lawrence Durrell in his 1950s award-winning autobiography, Bitter Lemons, much of the Bellapais village still retains the easy charm of those Durrell days. The village's main attraction is Bellapais Abbey. Now an imposing ruin with spectacular views of Kyrenia and the Mediterranean Sea, it was founded by Augustinian canons fleeing Palestine in 1200. The abbey flourished until it was looted and vandalised during the 14th century Genoese invasion. It went on to earn a reputation for scandal and corruption, eventually shutting down in the 16th century. After visiting the abbey and the famous Tree of Idleness, under which Durrell would often drink coffee, we continue our walk down the hill to the hotel. Later this afternoon, we will drive into Kyrenia for an optional visit to Kyrenia Castle and the Shipwreck Museum, which houses the remains of a 4th century BC merchant ship, with time to stroll around the harbour. Today's moderate 12.5 kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 300 metres of ascent and 350 metres of descent.
This morning we visit Saint Hilarion castle, a stunning historic fort overlooking the Mediterranean Sea . There is time to explore the three floors of the castle complex on foot, one of the best preserved of the Crusader castle. Built into the hillside there are some steep sections and steps to climb to the upper section. We meet at the café for a refreshing home made lemonade before driving to the western edge of the Besparmak Mountain range. Starting in the village of Kozan, we will walk among wild flowers and orchids to the ruins of the Sinai Monastery. Although very little is known about this building's history, archaeologists are in agreement about its Byzantine importance. We continue walking over the mountain range, through the pine forest to Lapta Village, taking a picnic lunch en route, before returning to our hotel. Today's moderate 10 kilometre walk is expected to take around four hours with 150 metres of ascent and 450 metres of descent (including a short steep section).
Today has been left free for you to use as you wish. You may choose to visit Famagusta - once one of the richest cities and most important trading ports in the world. The so-called 'City of 365 Churches' has been ravaged by severe wars and earthquakes throughout history, but still contains beautiful examples of medieval and gothic architecture. William Shakespeare is purported to have used it as the setting for Othello and the Venetian Citadel, overlooking the harbour, is popularly known as Othello's Tower. Just five miles to the north of Famagusta is the ancient site of Salamis, which is also well-worth a visit. With its significant collection of Mycenaean, Roman and Byzantine artefacts, it is the most important ancient city on the island. Alternatively, you may prefer to use your day to relax, spending time by the hotel's pool or on one of the local beaches.
Today we head out to the West Coast, through one of the most fertile agricultural regions in Cyprus, growing an abundance of fruit and vegetables. From the village of Kalkanli, our walk takes in pretty countryside, through ancient olive groves, some trees are over 1,000 years old, and past colourful flowered fields. We have a picnic lunch en route, before descending to the coast. Our walk finishes by the sea, with time for a drink in the beach cafe before continuing to visit the Iron Age Tumba tou Skuru 'Kings Tombs' archaeological site. Its excavation in the 1970s uncovered just a fraction of the site and many mysteries about its use and the people buried there remain unsolved. Today's easy 13.5 kilometre walk is expected to take around four with 200 metres of descent.
This morning, we head again into the Besparmak Mountains and to the highest of the Kyrenia strongholds, the ruined fortress of Buffavento. The name means 'buffeted by the wind' and a walk up to the top of the highest tower helps us to understand why. The zig zag path gradually ascends to the ruins, with some steeper steps to get to the top to the castle. On a clear day, our efforts are rewarded with a spectacular view of half the island, with the Troodos Mountains, Famagusta and Nicosia stretching out beneath us. Our main walk for the day takes us to the base of Besparmark, translated as 'The Five Fingered Mountain' because of its distinctive jagged peaks. Legend has it that the mountain was formed when the Byzantine hero, Dhiyenis Akritas, leapt across the sea from Anatolia, leaving his handprint forever etched into the landscape as he landed. We follow a trail into the pine forest, keeping an eye out for orchids (in spring time). Enjoy a picnic lunch at the tiny Church of Panayia Plataniotissa, with views across to Nicosia. Meeting the bus we drive the short distance to the final walk, under the forest canopy we walk to an abandoned monastery. Today's moderate walks total 13 kilometre which is expected to take around four hours with 70 metres of ascent and 170 metres of descent. The forest paths are uneven under foot in places and undulating with a few very short steeper sections.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Bellapais. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Bellapais at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from either Ercan Airport (North Cyprus ECN) a 25 minutes' drive from the hotel or Larnana Airport (Cyprus LCA) and 1.5 hours' drive.
7 Break Fast(s) 5 Lunch(es)
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