Authors TERRY WAKLKER and JULIA HAYDEN WELLS | Read time 8 MINS | AS 2201010210
A fairy tale grand hotel that welcomed Royalty became haunted after the mysterious deaths of guests and the three brothers who owned it. The Berengaria Hotel has been padlocked and decaying for nearly 40 years. But its reputation as “The Hotel of the Ghosts”, still attracts tourists who provide 5-star rankings on TripAdvisor.
The glory days of the Berengaria Hotel ended in1984. This was when the last guests checked out and hundreds of staff were dismissed. The hotel is in ruins, with missing and leaky roofs, wind and snow battered facades and collapsed walls. There are rubbish-filled swimming pools and weed-strewn terraces where once refined afternoon tea was taken.
Built at 4,600 feet above sea level, means extreme weather has taken its toll. It can be baking hot in summer, often sub-zero in the winter months.
Today’s tourists sneak through razor-wire fencing to gain admission and then spend hours exploring the once luxurious buildings and grounds. They like the imposing building design, constructed using hillside stone gathered by local villagers. The Berengaria’s hideaway hilltop location deep in the pinewood forests of the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus is another highlight.
Ghosts, aparitions and spirits
But, the big attraction for the brave and foolhardy visitor is ghost spotting. This, now totally derelict building seems to be the home of apparitions and spirits who appear to be mostly benign. This reflects the previous urbane lifestyle of the Berengaria – rather than their own anguished final hours before death.
The hauntings followed the mysterious deaths of several guests, the manager and the three Kokkalos brothers, who inherited the Berengaria Hotel from their father, Ioannis. There have been sightings of ghosts in corridors and the windows of public rooms. Screams and cries have echoed through the night. In addition, the lady guest found dead in the pool is said to be seeking revenge.
Moviegoers, who enjoyed The Shining, will suspect the caretaker, except the Berengaria ghostle does not employ one…
Travel writer, Maureen Murori has investigated the macabre tales that are being spread by local villagers. She said: “Trouble began when the hotel owner left the business to his three sons to share equally. After his death, the sons, full of jealousy, greed, and pride ran down the hotel. They lacked respect for each other and the business.“
Shadows, screams and cries
According to legend, all three brothers died mysteriously and in suspicious circumstances. Other stories, including that of a manager who killed himself (found hanged) at the hotel, added to the gossip. Local villagers became convinced that the hotel was haunted. Some people claimed to have seen shadows through the windows and heard screams and cries.“
Another story holds that two female ghosts roam the hotel. One of them was found dead in the swimming pool. It is said she still hangs around to avenge her death. The other is that of a young woman who is seen at the hotel dressed in white linen. Some say she can be seen leaning against one of the windows at sunset.”
Experienced ghostbusters and tourists seeking an adrenaline rush find themselves retracing the steps of early visitors like King Farouk of Egypt, Winston Churchill and the Duke of Marlborough. Haim Weizman, the first president of Israel, stayed there for months and ran his country from his suite.
Death at the Berengaria
Troodos folklore suggests one Kokkalos brother drowned, the second hung himself and the third used a pistol to end his life. Cold cases in police files, but close questioning of village elders in nearby Prodromos suggests:
Hanging 2 | Drowning 2 | Shooting 1 | Mystery 1
Now, visitors can only stroll the long corridors and empty dining rooms, lounges and terraces with their magnificent views across the Troodos Mountains. They can ponder on the luxurious lifestyle of the guests. Every room is empty. Beautiful furnishings have been “removed” over the years by local villagers.
Few people risk the propped-up, partly collapsed staircase that leads to the bedrooms or the outside communal privies where there might be a definite health risk lurking.
One visitor, Julia Hayden Wells, described the place: “I was so in awe of the building, so freaked out by its spookiness. It was an overcast day, much of the building was in shade and it was utterly terrifying. But, utterly fascinating too. We all agreed that the highlight of the day had been our visit to this mysterious derelict building.”
It is estimated that some 200 tourists a week visit the hotel – situated at an altitude of 1,600 meters – attracted by the building’s architecture and macabre history. They leave reviews and many 5-star ratings for the creepy atmosphere and the ghostly apparitions they may have seen – Ghosts secure five stars for the haunted hotel.
Queen of the Cyprus mountain hotels - Berengaria Hotel in its prime.
Queen of the Cyprus mountain hotels - Berengaria Hotel in its prime.
Gerengaria Hotel is a stark ruin. It has been reroofed to save the interior
Gerengaria Hotel: Once a place for Royals, now only ghosts are in residence
Berengaria Hotel: No paying guests around these untended swimming pools
Berengaria Hotel: Ghost of a guest found drowned here is seeking revenge
Gerengaria Hotel: Pools were last used in 1984
Berengaria Hotel: Reflections of its former glory
Berengaria Hotel - Ghostly welcomes, even in this image. Look closely.
Berengaria Hotel: Up to 200 visitors a week pass through the creepy portals.
Berengaria Hotel: Built throughout with stone collected by local villagers.
Scary ghosts...scary graffitti provides warnings to visitors
Berengaria Hotel: Visitors report apparition of a woman in a window.
Ghost alert - Gerengaris visitors claim they saw a ghostly figure at this window
The message in the window is clear to all...
Berengaria Hotel: Emergency roofing installed to save the building's interior.
Skiing in the Troodos Mountains caught on during the 1930s and Berengaria Hotel led the way
Coat of arms used in street signage.
The pool terrace at the Berengaria Hotel was a favourite with guests
Dining room abandoned when Berengaria Hotel closed in 1984
The dining room in the heydays of the Berengaria Hotel, Cyprus
Guest area with log fires.
Berengaria coat of arms looks "Royal" - it's based on the British original.
Haunted hotel images
The previous owner, Michalis Ioannides, is a descendant of the Kokkalos family, which built and owned the hotel for three generations. He has warned sightseers to stay away. The crumbling estate posed a danger to visitors who did not know their way around.
“You just can’t keep people away. They flock there from all over the place. They are intrigued by the hotel’s rich history. Imagine if the hotel was still operational,” said Michalis Ionnides. His ancestors’ efforts to bring in investors to revive the historic hotel failed and the estate fell into the hands of the Bank of Cyprus via equity for debt swaps. The bank failed to find a suitable buyer until December 2021.
But now the writing may be on the wall for the ghostly guests. A Cypriot developer has agreed to pay €2.2 million for the site. General Director, Lefteris Constantinou, confirmed that Prime Property Group plans to restore the hotel to its former glory and add luxury villas to the 25,000M2 plot.
“We intend to get the Berengaria up and running as a hotel once more. Our team is already working on options. When it comes to such properties, the investor has two options. One is to knock it down and build something new. The other is to renovate it and reinstate it as a classic mountain-style resort. We have opted for the second,” he added.
Renovating the Berengaria could be a risky business with hidden costs that scared off earlier potential investors. He said the firm’s marketing would be based on the history and legends surrounding the property. He didn’t mention “ghosts”, the hotel’s current five-star attraction.
But, unless the new owners appease the current inhabitants, some might say they don’t stand a ghost of a chance of bringing the hotel back to life….
Warning – This video contains unexplained apparitions…
The Berengaria was once the most luxurious, hotel in Cyprus. It was named in honour of Queen Berengaria. wife of King Richard the Lionheart. They were married in nearby Limassol in 1191. There was little joy in their marriage. This was due to Richard’s need for a son and heir to succeed him as King of England.
The new owners say they “Fully intend making the most out of the property’s legends, but without disturbing the character of the hotel or surrounding area.” The Berengaria Hotel covers an built area of around 5,000 M2 on a mountain top plot of 26,520M2.
“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.” ― Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas