A Daytrip to Sao Miguel's West CoastMarch 17, 2019 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C
Note - I am behind in the blogs with the kids but the footprints are coming soon ...
The island of Sao Miguel is beautiful. Driving for a half an hour west of the capital city of Ponta Delgado will take you to the most westerly point of the island. In half an hour! And in that half an hour the island constantly changes. It is one of the most diverse places that we have ever visited - the flora, fauna, landscapes and even its climate changes dramatically during the short drive. Within the space of just twenty minutes, you can go from soaking in a hot spring in the sun to having your head in the clouds on top of a mountain looking down on a volcanic crater. It's this diversity and dramatic scenery that we have really enjoyed. There is a T-shirt that I like that says, “Four Seasons in One Day”, and it’s true.
On the west of the island is an enormous volcanic crater with a large lake nestled inside of it. The road that crosses the lake creates the impression of twin lakes. To see it in its full glory, we took the road to the top edge of the crater.
Last week, Tim, Caitlin and Matt went to visit this volcano and happened to see a trail, or what appeared to be a trail going up to the Vista Do Rei viewpoint. They parked the car and had to bushwhack their way up. When they got to the top they were surprised to see an abandoned hotel that looked more like a concrete prison that the 5-star hotel that was once voted the finest in all of Portugal. They went into it and were awestruck by what they saw.
Built in the late 1980s, the Hotel Monte Palace was intended to be the ultimate in luxury travel for the Azores. 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, a nightclub, a beauty salon, a bank, and 88 rooms that overlooked 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. Just 18 months after it opened, the owners declared bankruptcy, and the building was left to the elements.
So what happened?
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 anyone’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 were there, 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. Most days, there is a heavy fog and this windy area experiences a whopping 200 days of rain per year. Many 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. I am sure that most people would not chose to have that experience. But we have head rumours that a Chinese company has bought it and want to renovate it.
Tim, Caitlin and Matt went inside the building to explore it and said that it looked like a disaster zone. Piles of plaster and wood lay on the floor while parts of the ceiling were falling down above their heads. They could see signs of previous grandeur - some mosaics on the bathroom walls and some marble in the algae, but there wasn’t any glamour remaining. It was a dump. Thieves, vandals and want-to-be graffiti artists have left their marks.
As we were driving up the road to the viewpoint, we happened to come upon the hotel too. As it was the weekend, there were several people wandering around the outside of the building and heeding the ‘Danger’ signs so we didn’t go in, but it would have been super interesting.Read more