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Monte Palace: The Story of the Abandoned Hotel in São Miguel Island, Azores

Blog » Travel » Monte Palace: The Story of the Abandoned Hotel in São Miguel Island, Azores

Located on the rim of a dormant volcano, surrounded by dense vegetation, a ridiculously gigantic building is falling apart. When visiting Vista do Rei viewpoint on São Miguel island, it is impossible not to notice this immense and eerie concrete structure behind it. Every traveler who passes by the road to go to Sete Cidades will wonder and probably search about it, this is Monte Palace hotel.

From the outside, it is not possible to see exactly what it is or even imagine how huge it actually is. No indication or sign tells the story of this construction. It looks unachieved, but in fact, it was the most luxurious place to be in the Azores about 30 years ago and now, it is completely abandoned, vandalized and all that is left is the concrete.

Let’s discover the history of this edifice – the Monte Palace – that once was the finest 5-star hotel in the Azores.

What is the Monte Palace Hotel?

Monte Palace was a sumptuous 5-star hotel on São Miguel island in the Azores. It is located in the Vista do Rei viewpoint, in Sete Cidades – Ponta Delgada county.

The viewpoint is particularly famous for its panoramic view over the lakes of Sete Cidades as well as the village inside the volcanic crater. On the main road when going up towards Sete Cidades from Ponta Delgada, it is impossible to miss it.

Enrico Pescantini | A beautiful drone photo of Monte Palace hotel in Sete Cidades
Enrico Pescantini | A beautiful drone photo of Monte Palace hotel in Sete Cidades

Built into the hillside to take advantage of the view over the Atlantic Ocean or the colored lakes, the hotel had a great chance to attract plenty of visitors and be successful.

However, it has been abandoned since 1990 and was only open for 18 months.

Monte Palace received the award for being Portugal’s finest hotel in the same week that it closed its door for good. What was once one of the most luxurious achievements of the islands is now in a deteriorated state that one cannot imagine unless seeing it themselves.

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The fascinating history of Monte Palace Hotel

In 1977, the company Industria Açoriana Turístico-Hotelereira (IATH) with French and Belgian shareholders emerged with the purpose of investing in the Azores. They wanted to build two deluxe hotels in São Miguel island:

  • – one in Sete Cidades in the mountains – Monte Palace,
  • – and one in Agua d’Alto right on the beach – Bahia Palace.

Both were designed by the Architect Olivier Clément Cacoubd (Official conservator of museums in France) and Yves Roa, together with S and P Einstein Architects and the group Creusot Loire Entreprise. The fact that it was a foreigner’s idea led the Azorean press to name it the French Hotels.

There were many guidelines for the architects in order to complete their projects. Namely, the buildings had to blend in with their surroundings and complement the landscape. For Monte Palace, the hotel had to have a physical link with the mountain in the East. Also, they had to use neutral colors to conceal the landscape. The total investment for the construction of the hotels was 2 billion escudos (about 10 million euros).

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David Rodrigues | Monte Palace hotel from the sky
David Rodrigues | Monte Palace hotel from the sky

The opening

After many years of delay, the first of the two 5-star hotels – Bahia Palace – opened in 1984. However, it was hard to earn something out of it. It closed and opened several times.

It was not until the 15th of April of 1989 that both hotels opened, with already a debt of 12 million escudos (about 60 000 euros). There were lots of critics, credits, and debts around those hotels. An outside investor was necessary to avoid a collapse, so the new administration began with ESTA (Estoril Sol and Tap Air Portugal). They managed help from the government with refundable subventions for repairs.

Bahia Palace is still open to this day, although it is a 4-star hotel now. Unfortunately, Monte Palace did not benefit from the same history.

David Rodrigues | Monte Palace hotel, an eerie atmosphere up the volcanic crater
David Rodrigues | Monte Palace hotel, an eerie atmosphere up the volcanic crater

Inside the hotel

Monte Palace hotel had 5 floors with a total of 88 rooms including:

  • – 1 presidential suite,
  • – 4 deluxe suites, 
  • – 4 double rooms with parlor,
  • – 27 double rooms,
  • – and 52 suites.

Also, there were 2 restaurants: Dona Amélia Grill and Dom Carlos restaurant. The names are in honor of the king and queen of Portugal who visited Sete Cidades in the summer of 1901. This visit also gave the name to the viewpoint right in front of the hotel ‘Vista do Rei’ (literally the King’s view). The restaurants were very well equipped and used silver cutlery, crystal glasses, and embroidered napkins. 

Inside the hotel was also a bar, 3 conference rooms, a playroom, a hairdresser, a bank, a nightclub in the basement, and many other boutiques. Monte Palace had more than 100 people employed and working every day for this gigantic hotel. It was a great luxury for this time period, with many imported materials.

monte palace hotel sete cidades
David Rodrigues | Monte Palace hotel and Vista do Rei viewpoint

The closing

Unfortunately, the hotel on top of the mountain closed on November 26th of 1990, only 18 months after the opening. It was actually quite a sad ending. On the same day when the director of Monte Palace received the award for Hotel of the Year in Lisbon, the staff in São Miguel heard that the five-star would close within a week.

Indeed, the owners had to declare bankruptcy, and the building was left to the elements. By itself, Monte Palace was losing 16,000 escudos per month. 

The following weeks and months were embarrassing for Portugal. Monte Palace was ‘the scam of the century’ for newspapers.

After closing, a guard and his dogs were on the spot every day for 20 years in order to limit vandalism. But in 2011, the guard was not getting paid anymore and left. And this was the beginning of the end. 

Locals began to steal everything from the abandoned hotel, even the lift! Now all that is left are the concrete walls, roof, and floor. The hotel is full of graffiti and debris. Tourists used to think that the building was still under construction when it was in fact completely abandoned because you could hear a lot of noise inside. But that was nothing else than people tearing out bathtubs. A year later, the government decided to take off all of the glass in the hotel to avoid harming people, which accelerated the stealing and deteriorating process of the building.

Enrico Pescantini | The inside of Monte Palace hotel
Enrico Pescantini | The inside of Monte Palace hotel

In 2016, Catalan visual artist Javier de Riba painted the floor of the lobby with blue flowers in one week. It took 2 days just to clean the dirt. This painting was for the annual art festival Walk and Talk. However, due to the poor conditions of the hotel, the painting deteriorated quickly and is not visible nowadays.

Why didn’t Monte Palace work out?

Several factors can explain why Monte Palace didn’t work out. 

To say it simply, it was a very ambitious project at the wrong place and at the wrong time. First of all, the Azores was not a popular tourism destination at that time. The great majority of visitors would be only locals or Portuguese from the mainland coming.

Then, the hotel was in a very remote location. People would need to hire a car and the roads were not so good in the nineties. There was nothing near the hotel to do. The aimed clients were rich people or VIPs, but around the hotel were only trails, while hiking was not so popular among the higher class.

Also, the amazing view over the lakes and the ocean was most often in the clouds. In fact, being in altitude, this spot is not only colder but also receives about 200 days of rain per year.

David Rodrigues | Sete Cidades crater with a bit of clouds
David Rodrigues | Sete Cidades crater with a bit of clouds

Another factor was the fact that there were not so many things to do inside the hotel. There was no spa, no gym, or grocery store, which means customers would have to go quite a long way to buy anything. Tourists and locals tended to go to the restaurants and the bar of the hotel, but not so many people would sleep in it.

What now?

Although there is nothing special inside but grey concrete rooms, it was once a luxury travel hotel. 

It was for sale and in 2015, someone bought it for only 380 000 euros, but then it went another time for sale for 1.5 million euros on local sales platforms OLX and Imovirtual. It has a total implantation area of 2.396m2 and a construction area of 13,104m2.

Monte Palace needed investors with enough capital to be able to rebuild and give this high-potential building another shot. And in 2017 a group of Chinese investors bought it – Level Constellation. It was supposed to reopen in 2021, 30 years after closing. However, nothing happened and construction didn’t even start yet.

David Rodrigues | Typical view from Vista do Rei viewpoint with Monte Palace hotel beside
David Rodrigues | Typical view from Vista do Rei viewpoint with Monte Palace hotel beside

What to do at Monte Palace Hotel?

Nowadays, Monte Palace has turned into a unique spot for pictures and a visit from the most curious travelers. There are many great things to do around the area of Monte Palace, let’s see this now!

Can I go inside the abandoned hotel?

Before we talk about if you should go inside Monte Palace, you have to know that it is forbidden to go inside because the building is falling apart and it can get dangerous. Signs warn you all over the facade to not trespass and in order to enter, you need to climb walls. It is not easy to access and they make it harder every now and then. However, many urban explorers will wander inside the huge ruin. You make your own decision, it is up to you and you should assume the risks.

Now that we said that, what is inside Monte Palace that attracts so many people? Well, there are not so many things to see inside the building. The lobby is quite impressive as it is enormous. But the reason most people go in is the very special view from the rooftop over the lakes and the ocean. It is basically the same view from the viewpoint of Vista do Rei, but seen from a higher angle as if you were a bird flying over the volcanic crater.

But beware if you are to go up to the roof as there are many holes around. From the empty and deep elevator shaft to the glass ceiling that is missing, the rooftop has some traps that have already cost tourists broken bones and worse. There are also no barriers on the roof, stairs have no railing and the floor is wet.

There is no security at all and if you are alone inside, you could wait a long time to get help if something goes wrong.

Enrico Pescantini | The empty abandoned Monte Palace hotel from inside
Enrico Pescantini | The empty abandoned Monte Palace hotel from inside

So if you choose to go inside, you need to be very careful with your steps.
If you have made it inside, you will surely notice the eerie atmosphere of this empty hotel. With the debris, graffiti, and moss covering the walls, Monte Palace turned into a dark and creepy hotel. Some rooms are still recognizable but not many.

See the lakes from the viewpoint Vista do Rei

At Vista do Rei viewpoint, you are standing on the spot for some of the most famous postcards of the Azores. The green and blue lakes are actually one of Portugal’s seven natural wonders. And once you look at it from Vista do Rei, you can truly understand why. 

From this viewpoint, you can also have a look at Sete Cidades village on the shore of the blue lake, and also at the stone bridge separating the colors of the lakes, that is in fact only one lake. Indeed, the water runs under the bridge so it is a two-colored lake.

On a sunny day, you can see the difference in colors very well. There is a scientific explanation for the blue and green lake, and also a love legend

The facts are that the colors vary due to the depth of the lake. On the green side, it is shallower, and on the blue side, it is deeper. The sky reflecting on the lakes reveals these beautiful colors. 

Álvaro Palácios | Watching the breathtaking view of the two-colored lake from Vista do Rei
Álvaro Palácios | Watching the breathtaking view of the two-colored lake from Vista do Rei

On the other hand, the local legend says that a blue-eyed princess fell in love with a green-eyed peasant. When her father the King forbade their love, they met at the bridge and cried so much that the color of their eyes created the lake.

Hike down to Sete Cidades village

There is a linear hiking trail called PR3SMI Vista do Rei. It starts at the viewpoint and goes down to Sete Cidades village. You will pass by wonderful natural features and amazing landscapes. The 7.7km trail is quite easy and goes mostly downward for approximately 2 hours.

The lakeshore is a great place to stop by and have a picnic. There, you can find our activity center and experience kayaking in the crater lakes among other adventures. At the end of the trail is the unmissable church of São Nicolau in the center of the village

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David Rodrigues |Hiking on the bridge of Sete Cidades
David Rodrigues |Hiking on the bridge of Sete Cidades

What is the best time to visit Monte Palace Hotel?

The region of Sete Cidades is a wonderful place to visit. Spending the whole day there in order to explore the most out of it is a good idea. From the Vista do Rei viewpoint, right in front of Monte Palace, you can observe a great sunset. The early morning is also a perfect time to visit Monte Palace as the clouds cover the lakes creating beautiful poetic scenery.

If traveling to the Azores during summer, it is important for you to know that parking lots at popular places like Monte Palace can get full quickly. So, visiting this area in the early morning is preferable if you want to avoid seeing many people.

In the wintertime, it can get more cloudy and windy up there. Make sure to check the cameras around the island on SpotAzores in order to know if you will be able to see something from the viewpoint.

David Rodrigues | Sete Cidades crater filled with clouds in the early morning
David Rodrigues | Sete Cidades crater filled with clouds in the early morning

How to go to Monte Palace Hotel

Monte Palace is right on the side of the main road to go to Sete Cidades, from Ponta Delgada. You just need to follow the signs for Sete Cidades or Vista do Rei. Renting a car is the best option to visit Monte Palace as the buses only go to the village, but if you like to walk, it is a good option to take the bus on Avenida do Mar, Ponta Delgada. There are buses every day. It is 20 km from Ponta Delgada, and it takes about 50 minutes by bus. If you choose to rent a car, the journey takes about 30 minutes along the roads EN1-1A and EN9-1A.

There are two car parks near the hotel: a short-duration one for staying less than 20 minutes (only see the viewpoint of Vista do Rei, walking around and back to the car), and a long-duration park if you want to explore more.

You can also go on a guided tour with our knowledgeable guides to discover the volcanic complex of Sete Cidades and pass by the huge hotel. They will tell you everything about the Azores and show you some spots off the beaten track.

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Álvaro Palácios | The view from Vista do Rei
Álvaro Palácios | The view from Vista do Rei

What to do after Monte Palace Hotel

After visiting Monte Palace, you can head down to Ponta da Ferraria for one of the most amazing hot springs of the Azores. Located between lava rocks, the natural pools filled with Atlantic waters are a popular relaxing spot, mostly at sunset. But before going there, you should check that the tide is low in order to feel the warm seawater.

The place to be at sunset in São Miguel island is Mosteiros. It is only some kilometers away from the Monte Palace hotel. From the beach, from a café or from the barbecue areas, you will have the best view for colorful pictures.

If you are more of a sunrise lover, then Nordeste, on the other side of the island, is the perfect spot.

Álvaro Palácios | Sunset at Mosteiros
Álvaro Palácios | Sunset at Mosteiros

Between Monte Palace and Mosteiros, on the way to the coast, there is another fantastic viewpoint: Ponta do Escalvado. From there you can have a great view over Mosteiros and the islets, but also, when the weather is great, something amazing happens at this spot. Indeed, when there are no, or high clouds, you can see the central islands of the Azores, including Pico, the highest mountain of Portugal! There are binoculars to see it better, but you can see it without it.

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Useful Tools & Apps

Spotazores is the official platform to see the weather in several spots around the 9 islands of the Azores. It is very useful to avoid bad surprises with clouds blocking the view or rain ruining your adventures.

Conclusion

Monte palace hotel is for sure a spot you don’t want to miss when visiting São Miguel island in the Azores. The impressive concrete building contrasts with the pristine natural landscape of Sete Cidades volcanic crater.

From the outside or inside the abandoned hotel, both perspectives are absolutely breathtaking and attract the curiosity of thousands of visitors every year.

So if you plan on visiting Monte Palace, we hope this article helped you to better organize your trip and know more about its fascinating history. Don’t forget to check out our tours passing by this mesmerizing abandoned hotel before it gets rebuilt!

Video

The full story of this amazing hotel

References

Sometimes Interesting – Azorean Palace in the clouds

Dinheiro Vivo – Hotel Monte Palace, encerrado há mais de 20 anos, reabre em 2021 nos Açores

Nit – São Miguel: o antes e depois deste incrível hotel abandonado

Avrex Travel – Hotel Monte Palace – Inside the Azores Abandoned Hotel

Lauren Juliff – Exploring the Abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in São Miguel

By Açores – Hotel Monte Palace – toda a verdade sobre o hotel abandonado nos Açores

Map

Melissa Masvaleix

Nature lover and adventure seeker, Mélissa is a French girl who landed in the Azores 3 years ago and never let go of this paradise in the Atlantic. She particularly enjoys the tranquility of the islands contrasting with the infinite outdoor experience possibilities.

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