Monte Palace: luxury hotel ruins in the Azores

Natacha Costa | Live the World

September 19, 2022

Some of the rare top-lists where Azores Islands were being mentioned for decades were those listing the poorest regions of the EU. Only about five years ago the Archipelago often described as the best kept secret of Europe, found its way out of those. Simultaneously it started appearing to other types of visitors -- those seeking the most beautiful islands in the world. When we think of the 80's here, the only tourists in the Azores were the families of Azorean immigrants living in Canada or the United States. Back then, it was cheaper to fly from Europe to the USA, than to these islands situated in the middle of nowhere. Still, someone thought that building a top-notch hotel here was a good idea and so the Mount Palace was open in 1989. A year after, it won a prestigious prize for the hotel of the year in Portugal, and on the same day the director declared the bankruptcy.

Visiting Monte Palace hotel ruins is not a recommendation for everyone. You should go there only in case you have, just like me, a thing for shabby buildings. However, the ruins stand over the top view point of São Miguel Island, overlooking blue and green sister-lakes of Sete Cidades, so it's difficult to ignore it completely. Once you are there, you can visit everything; rooms, bathrooms, halls, kitchens. Here and there you will spot the leftovers from its glorious past, like beautiful azulejos, once fancy green carpets, and pieces of wallpapers. Be very careful, but do go up to the top, for the best view over the lakes and the ocean.

The complex featured 88 rooms, 2 restaurants, 3 conference rooms, a hairdresser, a bank, a disco club, café & bar and a gorgeous view. Over 130 people worked in the hotel. Everything about it was luxurious, and everything was imported; furniture, marble, carpets. However, the hotel was empty most of the time. Not only are the Azores isolated, but the hotel itself was in the back of beyond, with one steep and winding road connecting to it and faraway from the airport.

After the hotel was closed, it was being guarded for 21 years, until one day in 2011 the guard and his dogs stopped coming. Shortly, everything was stolen and destroyed. All the furniture, doors, windows, and even the elevators! Day after day, noise was coming out of the ruins - it was people taking out marble bathtubs and taking them away.

Even I saw only one or another leftover of the wallpaper tiles, piles of trash and bare structures of the impressive curved staircase, it was not difficult to me to imagine the place in its full glory. Full of hardwood, plush, marble, tile works, and probably expensive artwork. I imagine a piano playing, too. Moonlight sonata, or something similar.

In the summer of 2016, during the island’s Walk & Talk Street Art Festival, an artist from Catalonia, Javier de Riba, visited the hotel and spent a week painting the floor of the atrium. It took days to clean up and prepare the floor. Javier decorated it with the azulejos-like work that looked stunning at the beginning. Just a year after, however, it became almost invisible due to humidity and dirt.

Since it stopped being guarded, the hotel was put on sale a few times. Portuguese news agency Lusa reported last year that it was finally sold to an Asian investor, planning to reopen by 2021. Seems like they will take advantage of the surrounding of the hotel and create also a science centre. The hotel will once again get its 5 stars, and feature a Spa, a rooftop bar and areas for nature activities like hiking and bird-watching.

Until then, enjoy the views from the roof.

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