Many do not know that the principality of Andorra is in fact a country. This small country of less than 90,000 people is sandwiched between France and Spain. Located in the Pyrenees Mountains, this microstate is known for its skiing, beauty, food, thermal waters, and tax-free shopping. Andorra is the perfect place to connect with Nature.
Small in size but making up for it in attractions, the principality of Andorra is a real gem for mountain and outdoor lovers!
WHY WE LOVE
Do not measure Andorra by its size, measure it by the variety of fun it has to offer. Andorra is a wonderfully quaint country that manages to balance outdoor sport and leisure activity impeccably well. Andorra’s thermal baths or ‘balnearios’ are perfect for those visiting in the winter and looking to relax and unwind. Andorra’s spas are the perfect place to counteract the winter cold, not to mention they’re beautiful and relatively inexpensive (compared to other spas). The famous Caldea Spa is worth a visit, if anything for its unique design.
Andorra also offers incredible insight into Roman and Religious art. Visitors can visit museums or go on cultural tours. They can marvel at 11th century Romanesque chapels and stare in awe at the outer details found within Andorra’s whimsical villages. Or gawk at incredible interiors decorated with magnificent frescoes that date back hundreds of years.
Although this small country uses the euro it is not part of the EU. This allows for it to be a tax haven. The entire country is duty free! This is why we suggest you get your Nature fix in the morning so you can wine and dine in the afternoon and go shopping later in the evening!
This country offers everything from world-class skiing to an Igloo Hotel to almost tax free shopping (4.5% VAT). Andorra is privileged, enclave in the Pyrenees, that allows its visitors some serious down time. Whether you’re looking for high-intensity outdoor sports, great shopping, interesting food options, or leisurely ‘you time’, Andorra delivers. The beauties to discover and activities to do in Andorra are never-ending.
Frenchman, hold hard, nor pass beyond that land
That nature fortified with rocky walls,
That Ariège thrusts through with headlong falls,
Land garlanded, most gallant and most grand.
What thou seest, passing here, is no high-land;
Rather a mighty Briareus, a giant
Set high to guard this passage, and, defiant,
Spain’s way to France, France’s to Spain command.
One arm to France, t’other to Spain is spread;
Upon his crest sits Atlas’ ancient weight;
His feet the two opposing seas betread.
The thickets are the thick hairs of his head;
The rocks his bones; the roaring mountain-spate,
The sweat his burthen ever makes him shed.”
- Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas
Did you know…?
- Andorra is 90% green land? This means that there is more land than there are buildings!
- Andorra is among the safest countries in the world with almost zero pickpocketing, car theft and conduct incidents.
- The prestigious Tour de France bicycle race goes through Andorra.
- Andorra is the 11th smallest country in the world and the 6th smallest nation in Europe.
- Wildthentic originated in Andorra!
- Andorra is the only co-principality in the world. This means that the President of France and the Bishop of La Seu d’Urgell of Catalonia share Princedom.
- It is the only country in the world where Catalan is the official language.
- Only about one third of the people living in Andorra are Andorran nationals. The rest of the population is Spanish, French, and Portuguese. This means that two-thirds of its residents cannot vote, or hold office as head of state.
ANDORRA TRAVEL GUIDE
When to go
Visit in the winter and you’ll see what skiing is all about. If you’re not into that you can visit in the summer and get to discover picture postcard landscapes.
How to get there/around
Part of what makes visiting Andorra so special is the way to get there, it’s not like you can just fly in! One must first land in Spain or France and take a bus and or car. Part of the journey is admiring the drive up (or down) to this special place. If you do not have a car we suggest you barrow and or rent one because it will make getting around a lot easier.
What to see & do
Andorra also has natural hot springs that aren’t found within spas. Some hot springs are known for their high nitrogen and sulfur content. Their waters range from 22°C (72°F) to 66°C (151°F) which made them wildly popular among people as far back as Roman times for their perceived medicinal qualities. Although this country is special in its vast variety of outdoor activities it also has things to do in case you’re looking for some down time. Spas are popular in Andorra but so are the restaurants! Get around the valleys, mountains, trails, rivers, lakes, and meadows of Andorra by biking (in the summer), hiking, climbing, rowing, swimming, and trekking. The Canillo Cultural Circuit is without a doubt a must-see. Canillo is home to many historical and religious sites. Part of the fun is getting out of the car and walking around as if you were back in the 17th (and earlier) century. There’s even a church that dates as far back as the 11thcentury!
What to pack
Andorra is located in the heart of the Pyrenees, therefore it is slightly colder than the surrounding European towns like Barcelona for example. Because Andorra is a country based on activity, we suggest you pack according to the season you are visiting in. If you plan on visiting Andorra during the summer and spring we suggest you pack cool clothing with a few layers as well; light jacket, sweater, wind breaker, and of course hiking boots. If you decide to visit during the winter months chances are you will be skiing and or snowboarding so make sure to bring your googles and snow gear. Whatever pieces of equipment you are missing can easily be rented and or bought while there. Andorra is a relatively casual country therefore you will be comfortable going out to dinner or bar hopping in jeans, sneakers, t-shirts, etc. Heels are not recommended.
Some travel insights from our experts about ANDORRA
- Andorran culture is influenced by their proximity to neighbours France and Spain and most locals speak a little of both languages as well as their native Catalan. However, Andorrans are fiercely proud of their independence. It would be best not to refer to them as French or Spanish.
- Getting to and around Andorra, icy road conditions during winter mean you need to have appropriate tyres or tyre chains and should have some experience with winter driving.
- Being the largest ski resort in the Pyrenees, with such a variety of slopes and ski options, we recommend you to invest in a Ski Andora Pass. Although a little more expensive than a singular resort pass, this 5-day ticket gives you access to all of Andorra's slopes, totalling over 280km of runs.
Do: Take advantage of the country´s tax haven status. Andorra is home to untaxed perfume, electronics, cigarettes, and alcohol.
Do: Practice patience. There are only two main highways that lead in and out of the country and Andorra itself is home to many one lane roads.
Do: Make reservations. Despite this tiny country having tons of restaurants it can become difficult to find a table especially if you're visiting during the winter weekends.
Do: Visit the igloo hotel if you are in Andorra during the winter. The one-of-a-kind hotel allows you to live as if you were in a fairy tale complete with Vikings, ice sculptures, and animal skins.
Do: Bring euros. Although Andorra is not a part of the EU, EFTA, or the Euro zone, it still uses the euro as its currency.
Don’t: Refer to Catalan as a dialect; especially considering it is the country's national language.
Don’t: Expect to see churches everywhere. Andorra is different from its neighbours, France and Spain, in that it does not have churches in every parish (community).
Don’t: Forget to stock up on fresh fruit and veg if you're planning to visit for more than a day. Fresh produce may be expensive and or difficult to find.
Don’t: Expect the city centre to resemble other major surrounding cities. Andorra la Vella relays on commerce and it´s quite obvious.
Don’t: Forget your sunscreen!
Cuisine delights: 3 Must-try Andorran dishes
The diet in Andorra is based on consumption of meat, garden vegetables, dairy, and some seafood. The most common winter dish is escudella, a soup of veal, chicken, potatoes, and vegetables.
Cargols (snails) are very popular in Andorra, the typical way of eating them is ´á la lluna´ which translates to ´to the moon´. This preparation consists of over-roasted snails that come served with aioli or paprika-infused vinaigrette, both dressing are also very popular within the region of Andorra and Catalonia.
You can finish both of these dishes off with some delicious crema Andorrana. The French have crème brûlée, the Catalans have crema Catalana, and the Andorrans have crema Andorrana.
CHATTING CORNER – SURVIVAL GUIDE
- Hello – Hola
- How are you? - Com estàs?
- What is your name? - Com et dius?
- My name is ….Em dic…
- Where are you from? - D'on ets?
- I am from …. – Sóc de…
- How much is it? – Quant és?
- Where is …? – On es?
- Do you speak English? – Parles ángles?
- Thank you – Gràcies/merci
- Please – Si us plau
- Nice to meet you - Un plaer
- Cheers! - Salut
- Beautiful – Bonic/bell
- Delicious – Deliciós