There wasn’t a single blood-pressure cuff to be found in Puigpunyent. And it’s really too bad, because it would have been so satisfying to send a normal reading to my doctor in London. See? I’m not always hypertense!
This small village, only a 15-minute drive from Majorca’s capital city of Palma, is light on medical equipment. But it has little need for it. Drive through sparsely trafficked roads into the valley, gaze up at the pine-studded mountains, and tune in to the occasional whoop of birdsong. The rest of the world is still out there, but it all feels very hypothetical.
Majorca’s reputation is mixed. It’s the land of sunburn-seeking tourists, largely British and German, at bargain-basement bachelor parties. Thanks—or no thanks—to an abundance of cheap flights on Ryanair and EasyJet, it’s been so overrun that in 2023, its tourism authority announced plans to cap the number of hotel beds at 430,000. (Still seems high, especially for an island whose population is just shy of a million.)
But Puigpunyent is no Palma. Or even really Majorca, for that matter. Even in late July, it retains its sleepiness. It’s just a scattering of low-slung houses, serviceable restaurants and cafés, and basic human services (post office, library) situated on the slopes of the Serra de Tramuntana Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And until recently, there was little to do around here but rent a villa and enjoy yourself.
But then a competing attraction arrived. At first, the Grand Hotel Son Net seemed familiar—there’s been a big old hilltop palazzo looming over the town since the Net family built its finca there, in 1672. In the 1990s, an American developer named David Stein bought it as a family home before converting it into a hotel, known as Son Net, in 1998. By 2020, the Son Net had seen better days. But Javier López Granados, a Spanish hotelier and art collector, saw a buying opportunity. When he reopened the property, in May, it was radically different from anything that Majorca had seen before.
Granados had already found success and acclaim as a hotelier with Finca Cortesin, his wellness resort just west of Marbella. (It’s the Canyon Ranch for Madrid’s beau monde.) As soon as he bought Son Net, he handed the keys—and the purse strings—to interior designer Lorenzo Castillo, whose maximalist, antiques-rich sensibility is an ideal complement to the finca’s vaulted ceilings and 400-year-old frescoes. The pink exterior, grandfathered in by the local landmark authorities, is really just a bonus.
The rest of the world is still out there, but it all feels very hypothetical.
Castillo had only 31 guest rooms, including six poolside suites, to work with, but each one is different. And all are exuberant. Mine, in the main building, was charmingly titled Maria de Napoles. It included a blue-and-white-striped sofa, persimmon-printed curtains, tufted footstools, a hand-painted floral side table, a Juliet balcony, and a marble bathroom larger than my first apartment. There were no electronics or, come to think of it, clocks in sight; a heavy, tasseled key was the only way to get in.
At Son Net, there isn’t much to do except take a morning hike and an afternoon nap. The rest of the day should be spent in a cabana by the pool. Or on Zoom calls, if that’s your thing. The general sleepiness of the place lends itself well to working holidays; there’s no FOMO since there’s no masterpiece-studded museum or Renaissance architectural wonder to miss out on.
The hiking is its own attraction. Galatzó, a 3,280-foot peak that makes for a vigorous, all-day summit, looms just west of Son Net, and it’s surrounded by an expansive nature reserve with dozens of other trails. You won’t see many people, but the deer, wild donkeys, goats, and even peacocks make for better company.
There’s a decent casual restaurant in town called Cafe Sa Placa, but it’s worth the uphill walk back to Son Net to eat on the terrace of its restaurant, Mar & Duix. On most evenings, there will be an easy-listening band that reminded me—in the best possible way—of Sausalito from the film Lost in Translation. For lunch, the bar does an excellent club sandwich.
The fact that this place works well in the summer really says something, but autumn, when the oppressive temperatures have receded along with the crowds, is the best time to go. It’s hoped that Grand Hotel Son Net’s much-agonized-over spa will open later this year. Along with nearly 10,000 square feet of treatment rooms, saunas, and an equipment-rich gym, it will include an indoor saltwater pool. This is especially useful because Son Net will be one of the few hotels in Majorca that doesn’t close for the winter.
After just 48 hours there, the idea of stress had become abstract. Before I was dragged back to the airport, I took one last walk up into the Tramuntanas, whose grassy hillsides resembled something out of Van Gogh or, at the very least, the Alpilles. At one point, a scraggly old goat blocked my passage on the trail. He stared at me dumbly, chewing on nothing in particular. Was he asking why on earth I was in such a rush to get out of there? Well, he wasn’t wrong.
Ashley Baker is a Deputy Editor at AIR MAIL and a co-host of the Morning Meeting podcast