I’d read about the Monte Palace on Sao Miguel before I set out for the Azores. It seems the place was initially built in the 80s but stayed open for barely a year and, three-decades later, remains abandoned.
On the face of it, this may not come as much of a surprise. I mean, hell, when I told people I was going to the Azores, most had never heard of it and those who had couldn’t point it out on a map. Add to this the fact that the hotel is not located in Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel’s only city and the Azores’ largest one, but rather atop a mountain on the rim of an inactive volcano, and—hospitality-wise—you have a recipe for failure.
It’s a giant hotel in an isolated location in a chain of little known islands.
But, when you actually see the thing, you realize that, no, there were reasons why this could’ve worked. First off, the Monte Palace was absolutely beautiful, and it was a real for true five star, full service hotel. The thing is huge but had only 88 rooms, which is a fairly small number, with the rest of its space given over to a giant courtyard.
Also, it’s location wasn’t really that isolated, it’s actually at one end of a hiking/driving trail that loops around Sete Cidades, a lake that is one of the island’s prime attractions (the other end of the trail is located in the town of Sete Cidades, on the shores of the lake). The views from the hotel would have been spectacular and, though a car or the use of some hotel-provided shuttle would have been necessary, Ponta Delgada and Sao Miguel’s many other sights would not have been prohibitively far.
I figure the real cause is that whomever decided to build the hotel was simply ahead of his or her time. If the Azores are off the beaten path now, they would have been off any path at all in the 80s, but today, with more and more people learning about and travelling to the Portuguese islands, I genuinely believe a place like the Monte Palace would work.
Unfortunately, seems ownership of the hotel has been the subject of a twenty-two-year-long court battle so that no work can or will be done on the thing. And so the abandoned hotel squats there like a gargoyle on the ridge of the volcano, crumbling and slowly swallowed up by the surrounding greenery.
It is, of course, rumored to be haunted and has been used as a location for horrors films. According to one of my guides, the hotel has also served as a training ground for the local police.
I spent a good twenty minutes roaming its lower level. I was actually there to hike the Sete Cidades, so I hadn’t brought a flashlight and couldn’t go especially deep into the hotel. Many of its rooms were simply gaping pockets of shadow.
If ever you do visit Sao Miguel, be sure, first of all, to set a day aside to hike the Sete Cidades, but then also earmark a half-hour or so to explore the carcass that once was the majestic Monte Palace.
But bring a flashlight . . . and try not to disturb Kabal’s meal.