Cradled by a series of lush mountain ranges, forests and valleys, Piloña is the perfect rural basecamp from which to explore the “Natural Paradise” of Asturias in northern Spain.
“Asturias is Spain’s best-kept secret, and Piloña is the best-kept secret in Asturias.” ~ Dave Haxby, owner of El Gran Sueño boutique hotel
Tucked away on northern Spain’s “Green Coast”, the region of Asturias is renowned for its dramatic mountain ranges, pristine beaches, hearty fare and commendably well-preserved Celtic culture. Not to mention the famous local cider, which pours freely day and night!
What’s more, this verdant nook flies almost entirely under the radar of most tourists’ radars, making it an extremely attractive option for those looking to truly get away from it all.
Forget the crowds of Barcelona and Benidorm, this is a very different kind of Spain!
But where’s the best place to stay in Asturias?
Welcome to Piloña
For travellers looking to embed themselves deep in the heart of Asturias’s famously green countryside, the rural community of Piloña makes for an obvious basecamp.
What’s more, Asturias’s pristine beaches and cow-clad mountains are all easily reachable within 30-40 minutes, while the cities of Oviedo, Gijón and Avilés are only 40-50 minutes away.
Read on to find out what there is to see and do in Piloña and the surrounding areas.
Things to Do in Piloña
1. Hit the Hiking Trails
Piloña seems to be entirely untouched by the modern world. You can walk for hours without seeing anything other than farmhouses and pasturelands.
I had one of the most special/bizarre experiences of my life on a hike here, involving a visit to a mountaintop bar where I ended up enjoying a spot of rifle shooting with the locals before being rescued from three rather large bulls by a local herds-woman.
Hiking Routes in Piloña: The local experts at El Gran Sueño, a local boutique hotel (more in this below), have put an excellent selection of detailed routes together. Each route is also mapped on Wikilok, which is fantastic for those of us who have a talent for getting lost.
2. Visit Infiesto – Piloña’s Capital
Infiesto is a small and unassuming town with around 2,000 locals. Its authenticity and workaday charm are its biggest asset, offering a genuine glimpse of life in rural Spain.
Life here does not revolve around tourism, but instead around a community of independent stores, bodegas, butchers, fishmongers and patisseries. There are also plenty of sidrerías (cider houses) to explore!
3. Seek Solace at the Santuario Virgen de la Cueva
Built into a natural cave just outside Infiesto, this pretty little chapel and sanctuary is a sort of homage to Asturias’s famous (and much larger) Sanctuary of Covadonga.
The site hosts many weddings and local cultural celebrations. There’s also a picnic area nearby with an outdoor swimming pool and, as always in Asturias, a great little bar.
Talking of picnic areas…
4. Picnic in Paradise
The Area Recreativa del Monte Cayón is the perfect place to head for when you’re not in the mood for a proper hike but still fancy getting out and about.
There are a number of recreational areas throughout Piloña, but this spot fringes a gorgeous pine forest and sits at an elevation of 550m, offering jaw-dropping views over Asturias’s iconic Picos de Europa.
There’s no bar, or anything else manmade, but the picnic benches (and BBQs) offer some of the best dining views in Spain!
5. See the Hórreos in Espinaredo
You’ll see Asturias’s emblematic hórreos everywhere, but you won’t see as many of them as you will in the little chocolate box village of Espinaredo.
What are hórreos, you ask? They’re basically ancient wooden granaries built on stilts – a place to keep important harvests out of reach of hungry rodents and what have you.
Tip: We quite fancied the look of Bar Restaurante El Rincón, a local bar and restaurant in Espinaredo. We didn’t have time to check it out, but if you do…
6. Hit Asturias’s Pristine Beaches
The quality of the beaches was one of main reasons why we moved from Barcelona to Asturias. They’re seriously impressive, and the surf’s bloody fantastic!
The best beaches in Asturias are all located within an hour’s drive from Piloña – here are a few to get you started:
Playa de Rodiles (Villaviciosa): Located a 40-minute drive away, Rodiles beach is possibly one of my favourite beaches on Earth. The water is crystal clear here and the surf gets pretty big on a good day. I also adore the eucalyptus forest, which fringes the white sands and harbours a particularly fragrant picnic area.
Playa de Ballota (Llanes): Located about an hour away, Ballota beach is located just outside the sensationally gorgeous waterfront town of Llanes, which is easily one of my favourite places in Asturias. The beach itself is small and has a great little bar from which you can watch the world go by.
Playa de Vega (Ribadesella): Located a 50-minute drive away, Vega beach belongs to the charming fishing town of Ribadesella and is boxed in by a dramatic range of lush green mountains. Great surf here too!
Playa de la Griega (Colunga): Located a 40-minute drive away, La Griega beach is a great walker’s beach and known for its fossilised dinosaur footprints.
Arenal de Morís (Caravia): Located a 50-minute drive away, Morís Sands is revered for its pure white sands.
Where to Eat and Drink in Piloña
Piloña may be small, but with such fresh local produce on its doorstep, there are plenty of excellent places to eat within a 30-minute radius, and plenty of traditional bars and restaurants to snack at.
Pusáki: Creative fine dining that draws heavily on local ingredients.
El Corral del Indianu (1 Michelin star): The creation of José Antonio Campoviejo, a “mad genius” .
Casa Marcial (2 Michelin stars): The place to splurge. Order one of the tasting menus and don’t scrimp on the wine pairing option.
Where to Stay in Piloña, Asturias
We stayed in a gorgeous self-catering apartment at El Gran Sueño boutique hotel (rooms and apartments), which is housed within a beautiful historic property.
El Gran Sueño’s location is exactly what you crave from a rural escape, nuzzled away in the tiny hamlet of El Caspiu in the foothills of the El Sueve Nature Reserve.
It really felt like we’d escaped the modern world entirely and travelled back in time to far simpler days.
As well as being the perfect base for exploring Piloña, its central location also makes it ideal for those planning to explore the rest of Asturias.
Everything I’ve mentioned in this post is within easy driving distance, although I could have quite happily stayed on the property – leaving only to pop into Infiesto for lunch (10 mins away) or to set off on one of the many hikes that start from the front door.
Our apartment had a huge terrace overlooking the garden and waking up here with breakfast and fresh coffee, the sun rising over the Picos de Europa in the distance, was heavenly.
We also had one of those huge standalone bathtubs in our bedroom, which was a huge hit with Rosana and I. Especially when we realised there were a few complimentary bottles of Asturian craft beer in the fridge.
I mean really, what better way to relax after a day out in the countryside than with a couple of frosty beers in the bath?!
El Gran Sueño (‘The Big Dream’ or ‘The Big Sleep’) is an extremely impressive renovation project by Dave and Javier, who are passionate about Asturias and all it has to offer. Read the full and immensely inspiring story here.
An absolutely fantastic experience and highly recommended.
Rooms available with organic breakfast included from €120.
Self-catering apartments available from €95.
Make it Happen
How to Get to Piloña, Asturias: Assuming you’re flying into Asturias then you can pick up your rental car at the Asturias OVD airport and drive to Piloña in a little under an hour. If you’re taking the train from elsewhere in Spain, you can pick up your rental car in Oviedo or Gijón and arrive in less than an hour.
When to go to Asturias: Northern Spain is much milder than southern Spain. Summer days still get pretty hot, but generally speaking it’s a much more manageable place to be than, say, Barcelona or Seville, where it can simply be too hot to go out. Asturias is also something of a winter wonderland and I’ve been told many times that it’s a great place to ski too.
See More Travel Guides, Videos & Journals from Asturias
Note: I stayed at El Gran Sueño as a guest but all words, photos and opinions are entirely my own.