Exploring the Abandoned Monte Palace Hotel in Sao Miguel


Inside the Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel

On the rim of a now-extinct volcano lies an eerie reminder of what could have been. Unlike the vibrant green vegetation that surrounds it, this shell of a building is grey, unsightly, and falling apart.

You approach it on the single winding road, where it looks more like a concrete prison than the 5-star hotel that was once voted the finest in all of Portugal.

Built in the late 1980s, the Hotel Monte Palace was intended to be the ultimate in luxury travel for the Azores: an island chain that hadn’t yet begun to attract tourists from outside Portugal. Back then, it was more expensive to fly from Europe to North America than it was to these beautiful Portuguese islands.

So, investors invested and builders built, and this 5-star resort was open for business in 1989. The large complex featured two restaurants, a bar, nightclub, hairdressers, bank, and 88 rooms that overlooked either the Atlantic Ocean or the twin lakes nestled in the caldera of the volcano.

Ironically, the Monte Palace hotel received the award for being Portugal’s finest on the same week that the hotel closed its doors for good.

Yes, just 18 months after it opened, the owners declared bankruptcy and the building was left to the elements.

Hotel Monte Palace exterior

So what happened?

Quite frankly, opening this hotel was a poor business decision. It didn’t make sense to build the Monte Palace in either this location or at this time.

Back in the 1980s, the Azores wasn’t on anybody’s radar when it came to international tourism. On top of that, its location on the island was remote, which meant guests would need to hire a car to get there, and there wasn’t anything within walking distance. Once you arrived, you’d have to amuse yourself by either driving yourself around the island or by sitting on your balcony and gazing out at the gorgeous views.

Those views, however, would have been rarely visible.

Even though we somehow managed to luck out with bright blue skies when we visited, this part of Sao Miguel is more likely to be shrouded in grey than not. The hotel experiences a whopping 200 days of rain per year, which meant an awful lot of guests would have been paying a lot of money to shiver on their balcony and experience what it’s like to be engulfed in clouds.

Unsurprisingly, very few people chose to have that experience.

Man inside Hotel Monte Palace the Azores

Rather than opting to immediately demolish the hotel, the owners placed a single guard and his aggressive dogs in the building to deter trespassers. For over a decade, it was near-impossible to enter the Monte Palace, unless you were willing to risk your limbs being attacked, so the building remained as it had always stood: a time capsule from the 1980s.

Eventually, funding ran out, the guard left, and the Monte Palace fell into disrepair.

Windows were removed, elevators were stolen, beds, TVs, and windows were taken, all leaving behind a skeleton of a building that’s now covered in graffiti, broken glass, and piles of trash.

Inside the Monte Palace Hotel

It’s an eerie place to explore, especially as most visitors to the nearby viewpoint don’t bother to venture inside, so you feel as though you have the entire hotel to yourself. When I visited, there were only half a dozen people in the building, and it was rare for me to hear anything but my own footsteps.

Dave and I emerged into the interior courtyard and weren’t exactly shocked to discover it looked like a disaster zone.

Piles of plaster and wood lay on the floor while parts of the ceiling dangled ominously above our heads. Previous visitors to the hotel had mentioned in blog posts about spotting signs of previous grandeur, discovering mosaics on the bathroom walls and hints of marble in amongst the algae, but at this point in time, there was next to none of that glamour remaining.

What was once magnificent was — to put it not in any way politely — now a dump.

Elevator at the Monte Palace Hotel

Floor at the Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel

In the summer of 2016, a Caatalan artist named Javier de Riba came to the Monte Palace and was invited to paint the floor of the lobby. I couldn’t believe how quickly the deterioration had taken place, from a floor that looked like this to the dirt-covered mess I was standing on just one year later.

Inside the Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel

On first impression, I was disappointed.

The hotel was a trash-filled shell of its former self and unlike my experiences in Pripyat and Kolmanskop, there wasn’t a great deal to see. The bedrooms were empty concrete holes, void of wallpaper and carpet, let alone beds and curtains and bathtubs. Just big, grey concrete rooms with nothing to even indicate that they were once the epitome of luxury travel in Portugal.

As someone who loves to explore abandoned buildings around the world, I was ready to leave within 10 minutes of stepping into the lobby.

But then I found another staircase.

Unlike the sweeping spiral steps that took you from floor to floor, this was small and narrow, and seemed to take you higher than any of the bedrooms. When I reached the top, there was a thigh-height concrete barrier that I immediately scrambled over.

Grafitti at Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel

I blinked.

Was I on the freaking roof of the hotel?

Yes, I was.

And what’s so special about the roof?

Oh, only that it offers the best views on all of Sao Miguel.

Rooftop terrace Monte Palace

Rooftop of Monte Palace Hotel Sao Miguel

View Monte Palace

View of Sete Ciadades from rooftop of Monte Palace

Dave and I spent half an hour up on the roof, wandering in circles and taking as many photos as possible, admiring the coloured lakes of Sete Ciadades and wondering why a place like this isn’t on every traveller’s radar.

The view of the lakes rivalled anything I’d seen during my six years of travel.

One thing I wasn’t a fan of? The unexpected holes and gaps that revealed drops that seemed to fall forever:

No go Monte Palace

Big hole Monte Palace

Nope.

Back downstairs and inside the hotel, Dave and I took one last look around.

Monte Palace Hotel sign in Sao Miguel

We spotted the old Monte Palace Hotel sign that reads Onte P l now.

Lauren in the Azores

We took a photo of me trying to look like an adventurous urban explorer, which might have worked if it wasn’t for the visible children at the end of the corridor.

Monte Palace corridor

We shuddered as we walked through even more darkened rooms, although I mostly giggled when I saw the graffiti reading pee.

Bedroom in Monte Palace Hotel view
This was the view from the bedrooms in Monte Palace

We decided to round off our adventure by terrifying ourselves.

Most people enter the Monte Palace from the front. You walk through the lobby, creep into the interior courtyard, and then get stuck in exploring. Where very few people opt to go, however, is through the back.

It’s dark there. It was more grimy than anywhere we’d explored so far, and a cold, clammy sensation hung in the air.

I wasn’t sure if we’d ventured into a parking lot or a basement, but there was one thing I was certain of: I was definitely about to be murdered.

Monte Palace Hotel is creepy
Come inside if you’re longing for a good stabbing

In unsurprising news, the Monte Palace Hotel was used as a set for a horror film in the past.

Still, I had been emboldened by my successful climb to the roof, and was determined to discover a Monte Palace gem for myself. Online, you can read an account from an urban explorer who discovered a binder of unpaid bills inside the hotel and kept it as a souvenir. I didn’t want to take anything from the Monte Palace, but I was craving finding another one of its secrets.

I switched on the torch on my phone and took a step forwards. As Dave joined my side, I paused and listened, ignoring the shivers running up and down my spine. My skin broke out into goosebumps.

Silence. 

Together we crept forwards, slowly making our way into the building until darkness engulfed us. I shivered. Our torches could only illuminate a metre or two ahead of us, so there we were, just shuffling into the black, creeping through tunnels. In search of something. I didn’t know what. I didn’t know why.

“I don’t like it,” I confessed.

“This is pointless anyway,” Dave said. “We can’t see anything.”

“Abort!” I whispered. “Abort! Abort! Abort!”

I spun around and hurried from the confines of the Murder Rooms, breathing a sigh of relief when I was able to bask in the sunshine once more.

Twin lake on Sao Miguel

How to Plan a Trip to the Monte Palace Hotel

Getting to the hotel is easy-peasy if you have your own transport in Sao Miguel. Follow signs from anywhere in the island to Sete Ciadades — there’s only one road that will get you there. Look out for a sign pointing to Vista do Rei (View of the King), and follow that road all the way to the car park at the end. The hotel is right beside it.

A flashlight would be a good investment if you’re planning to explore in-depth. The basement is so dark and eerie that our phone lights barely illuminated more than a couple of metres in front of us and therefore prevented us from seeing as much as we could. I wish we’d had a flashlight, so if you have one handy, it’d be good to bring with you to the Azores.

Be careful. This is an abandoned hotel and health and safety is non-existent. Tourists have fallen and broken bones while exploring here, so be careful with your steps. The stairs have no railings, the elevator shaft is open and ready to accept falling adventurers, and there are no barriers up on the roof. It would be easy to slip and injure yourself here, so make sure to pack good shoes and tread carefully. And, as always, get travel insurance before you leave! I use and recommend World Nomads.

Where to stay in Sao Miguel: The guesthouse we stayed at in Ponta Delgada more than made our trip in the Azores. They hand out an incredible map to all of its guests that’s so detailed and useful that I’d recommend staying there just to get your hands on it. Our trip would have been nowhere near as amazing had we not had it. And the hotel itself was great! There was a swimming pool! The staff were lovely!

It’s not often I’ll order you to stay in a specific hotel, because a hotel is a hotel is a hotel. But this one? This one is definitely worth checking in to.

How to get to Sao Miguel: SATA Airlines flies daily between Portugal and the U.S. and allows you to stopover on the islands at no extra charge. Our flight from Boston to Lisbon cost $275, which also turned out to be the cheapest way for us to get to Europe from North America. Adding in a five-day layover made no different to the cost of the flights. If you’re already based in Europe, SATA Airlines, TAP Portugal, Tui, and Ryanair have a ton of great deals and you can often fly there for as little as $100 return.

 

Would you explore this creepy-ass hotel if you were in the Azores?

Previous January 2018: Travel Summary and Statistics
Next February 2018: Travel Summary and Statistics

43 Comments

  1. Natalie
    February 25, 2018
    Reply

    No, I probably wouldn’t go! I kind of want to, but I’d want to be part of a group. It looks really cool, though. I love looking at pictures of abandoned places.

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2018
      Reply

      I’d be really nervous wandering around if I was on my own, so definitely get wanting to explore as part of a group!

  2. Lau
    February 26, 2018
    Reply

    Every time I read more about the Azores I’m convinced I need to visit. Looks like a fascinating place to explore, even if most of the items in the hotel have been removed.

    • Lauren
      February 28, 2018
      Reply

      The Azores is so underrated! Definitely try to get there if you can :-)

  3. Nicci
    February 26, 2018
    Reply

    Wow, How amazing is lake Sete Ciadades!
    Very inspiring blog, such an amazing thing to do to sell everything and travel the world. Loved that.

    • Lauren
      February 26, 2018
      Reply

      Right?! It’s a seriously beautiful part of the world that so few people know about!

  4. Jessie
    February 26, 2018
    Reply

    It’s so sad to hear that once this finest hotel is now abandoned. Anyhow, seeing that view is quite spectacular but who would know you’re at the top of the abandoned Monte palace hotel.
    Btw, Canada is a beautiful place to visit too.

    • Lauren
      February 28, 2018
      Reply

      Yes, I imagine the views from the hotel rooms would have been incredible on the 10 days a year when the weather would have been nice!

      I’ve been to Canada a couple of times now, but definitely need to return to see more.

  5. Jillian Michelle
    February 26, 2018
    Reply

    The rooftop views of the lakes of Sete Ciadades are amazing!! I’m glad you found the staircase to make it all worthwhile. After seeing your pics of the bottomless death holes of doom, I think I would have been afraid of encountering some other death pit trap while exploring the part of the hotel where you couldn’t see much in front of you beyond your torches. I think I was holding my breath when I read you turned around haha!! I’d love to visit this place though!!

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2018
      Reply

      Ha! I have to confess the open elevator shafts definitely made me nervous.

  6. Kirstin (LetsGoSomewhereElse)
    February 26, 2018
    Reply

    Amazing! I was just thinking about exploring local abandoned buildings and how I miss it. It really has been a long time. Something addicting about exploring places like this and I definitely chuckled when you were like “abort, abort!!” completely me all over.

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2018
      Reply

      I love exploring abandoned buildings, too. I need to do more of it!

  7. Nerede
    February 27, 2018
    Reply

    Voaavvv. Thanks. Very Good.

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2018
      Reply

      Pretty cool, huh?

  8. Dominique | dominiquetravels.com
    February 28, 2018
    Reply

    I have never walked through an abandoned hotel! I think this would be a really cool experience. An extra reason to visit the Azores!

    • Lauren
      March 2, 2018
      Reply

      Absolutely! I just wish I could have visited right when the guards had left and there were still plenty of items inside the building to look at.

  9. Sander
    March 3, 2018
    Reply

    Reading the caption “Come inside if you’re looking for a good stabbing” really gave me a good chuckle.

    In all seriousness, though, I enjoyed reading this post a lot more than I had expected. I’m not normally a big fan of abandoned places, but you’ve just sparked my interest.

    Also, a big fat WOW at the views on the roof!

    Thank you for sharing, Lauren!

    • Lauren
      March 21, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks so much! :-D

  10. Emily
    April 15, 2018
    Reply

    Great post! I found this abandoned hotel when I was visiting Sete Cidades on a solo trip last September. I had no idea the hotel was even there and spent quite a while wondering around it on my own. It was pretty creepy. I love that you did some research on it because I really wondered about what it used to be. When I was visiting, there were only a handful of people wondering around the hotel even though the parking lots were full of cars. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to find my way to the roof! I have plans to return next year so I’ll make that a priority!

    • Lauren
      April 23, 2018
      Reply

      Oh, yay! Glad you found the information useful, and hope you make it back to check out the roof on your next visit! :-)

  11. Chem
    May 22, 2018
    Reply

    I wanna go there after I read many negative descriptions about the abandoned hotel. I want to see how really ruin the place has been!

    • Lauren
      May 24, 2018
      Reply

      It’s just a bit of an empty shell now, so there’s not a huge amount to see. It’s interesting to wander around and take photos, but likely won’t be the highlight of your trip.

  12. Kyla Jocson
    June 5, 2018
    Reply

    “Come inside if you’re longing for a good stabbing” HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA that part of the hotel looks like a scene from a horror or a suspense movie! Anyways, I’d love to go there! And gosh the view! Really, there is beauty in the ruins. Thanks for sharing the pics, Lauren. Cheers! :)

    • Lauren
      June 6, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed that line :-)

  13. Chris
    July 21, 2018
    Reply

    Update: this property has been acquired by a Chinese company known as “Level Constellation” and is being closed off to the public in preparation for construction. Work crews are currently installing barriers at every entrance. Their aim is to rehabilitate the property and open it as a five star destination hotel.

    • Lauren
      July 22, 2018
      Reply

      Yeah, I read about that while writing this post. Will be interesting to see how it ends up!

    • Dale Meyer
      August 2, 2018
      Reply

      I was there yesterday and you can still easily access the hotel. It was a very clear day and the views are truly remarkable. Go while you can.

      • Lauren
        August 2, 2018
        Reply

        Great to hear!

  14. Ronald
    August 12, 2018
    Reply

    I can confirm you can still enter if you climb over the walls, went there today

    • Lauren
      August 21, 2018
      Reply

      Oh, that’s good to know!

  15. Kevin Pearce
    September 13, 2018
    Reply

    Great blog, pics and information.
    Thanks :-)

    • Lauren
      September 14, 2018
      Reply

      Glad you found it useful!

  16. Michelle
    September 29, 2018
    Reply

    I visited this ghost hotel twice in the summer 2018. Totally Fasinated. Couldn’t get enough of it. Can’t wait to see what the new investors do with the building.

  17. Alan
    October 7, 2018
    Reply

    I stumbled across this amazing place back in the spring of 2009. My Facebook page is public, so if you scroll through the photo albums to “Independence Of The Seas Florida-England” you will find my pics of the aforementioned guard dogs (yes there’s a story there that followed me all the way to Southampton) and intact glass, lights still on inside etc.
    it was a creepy foggy day, which only added to the mystique.

  18. Abbie White
    November 22, 2018
    Reply

    I found your great website yesterday and decided to return to the grand abandoned hotel. My first visit with my husband was in February 2017. Then, we spent a couple hours exploring the hotel and enjoying the outdoor scenery from the top deck. I recall many of the sights that you describe well on your webpage. Your photos are great. It was a truly amazing experience see experience this old hotel. We arrived at noontime on November 21, 2018. Near the parking space, our rental car was stopped by two officials. We were told firmly that our time limit for a visit was 20 minutes. I noticed that the entire area has been changed in terms of landscaping and barriers. There are large concrete walls closing off the two loading dock bays where we entered the house last time. Signage is bold and frequent stating entry is forbidden. We sighed and reflected how lucky we were to gain entry last time. I am glad that I took lots of photos. Thank you again for sharing your travel experiences with the world.

  19. Bea Rebelo
    December 10, 2018
    Reply

    Did you know there is also an abandoned hotel on Terceira and Corvo islands?

    • Lauren
      January 5, 2019
      Reply

      I did not! I’ll have to make sure I check them out during my next visit :-)

  20. Celia
    February 1, 2019
    Reply

    I was 5 years old when this hotel was open I still remember some of it but not much, I was born in sao Miguel not far from sete cidades there’s only 2 towns between where I’m from and sete cidades, I remember really well when the guard and the dogs were there but never went back inside even after the guards had left. Last year I was there with my husband and kid but didn’t go in I’ll just keep my very few memories that I have from being a beautiful hotel…

  21. Saskya
    August 26, 2019
    Reply

    Just returned from Ponta Delgada and a visit (several!) to the Monte Palace Hotel. It is spooky and facinating. I spent the night there with my boyfriend. Most places are damp but at the roof it was quite dry. Beautifull views! Nature is great at the Acores.

  22. Mark-
    February 28, 2020
    Reply

    I was just there and our guide just verified that the hotel was just purchased by a Chinese company. According to him, they have plans to rebuild the hotel within the next 6 years.

    • Lauren
      March 15, 2020
      Reply

      Interesting! I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it, if they do anything at all. It would certainly be a very cool place to stay!

  23. Bill Grove
    December 28, 2020
    Reply

    Hello, To gain access, last visited December 2019, drive on east along the road with the hotel on your right, and the Green Lake on your left, park opposite the turning that takes you down into the vast volcano. Walk along the ridge of the volcano, going west, until you come to the top floor of Monte Palace, and go right in , no barrier. Take a torch and explore the old night club in the basement, entrance near the old reception desk. I do not believe that it will ever open as an hotel again, but the building, and its geographical position, will be very useful in future to the Chinese government, which controls all Chinese companies at home and abroad. Do visit Lava Jazz, in the Coliseum Theatre in Ponta Delgada, the very best.

    • Lauren
      January 13, 2021
      Reply

      This is amazing — thank you so much, Bill! That’s going to be super-helpful for my readers :-)

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