Andorra! A destination that many people don’t have high on their bucket list, but it is a very interesting country worth putting on your immediate plans. It is located between France and Spain and between the Pyrenees Mountains. Its capital is Andorra La Vella or the Principality of Andorra or Principality of the Andorran Valleys or Andorra for short.
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How to get to Andorra
As we found when we were in Barcelona, there is no airport or train station to get to Andorra. There is however a road network which offers the traveller a lush and relaxing route to get there. Renting a car from Barcelona, the distance is about 3 hours, while from Toulouse it is about 2 ½ hours. These two cities are the closest cities to travel by road to Andorra, but there are also frequent buses. For costs and ticket availability, you can check here.
When to go
Andorra is an ideal destination to visit at any time of the year. For winter sports enthusiasts such as skiing and snowboarding, and for those who enjoy the snow, the winter months are a perfect time. The summer months, on the other hand, are cool mainly due to the altitude, and you can go for walks without getting hot at all. But to experience, Andorra’s nature, its lush vegetation and mountain scenery, the autumn and especially the spring months are the best. Also, we were informed by the locals that Andorra has sunshine 300 days a year despite the snow, so we suggest you take sunglasses as well as ski equipment!
What to do in Andorra
Andorra la Vella
The most famous tourist spot in this small state is its capital, Andorra La Vella. It is located at an altitude of 1023 meters, holding the title of the highest capital in Europe and has a permanent population of about 22 thousand inhabitants. It is dominated by a vibrant cultural culture, with galleries and craft shops showcasing local art, as well as bars, cafés and restaurants with live music and dancing. You will find in many parts of the city, organised tours for those who wish to get a taste of Andorra’s history with guided tours of its historic buildings, which we will mention below.
We also recommend visiting Andorra La Vella at Christmas and experiencing the festive season in the capital. In the decorated city you will discover a wide variety of customs and traditions and you will wander around the Christmas markets tasting the most famous local products. You will be in the perfect place to get into the Christmas spirit!
Caldea Spa Complex
Located in the municipality of Escaldes Engordany, Caldea is a large natural spring complex with various indoor and outdoor pools, Jacuzzis and hydrotherapy sections spread over 18 floors in the tallest building in Andorra and the largest spa complex in Europe. The complex has a separate section for adults called Inuu and one for families and children, so it is an ideal place for everyone. Caldea is the place visited by all tourists who find themselves in Andorra, with the number of them exceeding 400,000 every year.
What’s more, it has some of the most impressive architecture in the world, both on the outside and especially on the inside. The roof where the spa is located, especially in the central part, is made of glass, where you can see the sky and especially the stars at night while relaxing in a pool. Some shows and performances include water and lights throughout the day and night as well as an outdoor Jacuzzi.
Andorra is known for its prime location for skiing and it is mainly in Vallnord that visitors from all over Europe arrive for the fresh snow and perfect skiing conditions. Vallnord, which is part of the Pyrenees, caters for skiers of all abilities, so whether you just want to try one of the beginner slopes or go on the professional slopes, you’ll have no problem. Families also head to Vallnord to take advantage of the ski schools and family activities, such as sledging, or enjoy a ride and tour of the area on a snowmobile.
Pas de la Casa
Right on the border with France, Pas de la Casa is one of Andorra’s best ski resorts. Today, it has more than 30 lifts that take visitors to the areas below Pic d’Envalira. If you’re an experienced skier, you should visit, as Pas de la Casa has several red runs that extend into the surroundings. The nightlife is also quite lively there, making the resort a popular place for mainly young travellers.
In the past, the tax-free regime prevailed, making Andorra a shopping paradise for wealthy Spaniards and a great destination for Christmas shopping.
However, things have now changed quite a bit and Escaldes town centre, along the Avinguda Carlemany, is mainly pedestrianised, with shops and restaurants on either side. In Andorra La Vella, you can stop at the legendary Pyrenees department store, where you can find all the big designer brands, and continue along the Avinguda Meritxell, which is the main artery that eventually joins the Carlemany after crossing the Valira River.
In addition to groceries and clothing, Andorra used to produce tobacco and this was one of the items that visitors procured, apparently because of the duty-free status. You can still see the tobacco fields and there is a tobacco museum that you can also visit.
La Noblesse du Temps
Located in the capital and is so impressive that it is impossible to pass by without seeing it. Weighing 1.4 tonnes and towering 4.9 metres from the ground, La Noblesse du Temps is a monumental bronze sculpture. The legendary artist Salvador Dalí constructed the monument that symbolizes the passing of time.
Andorra has a long tradition of tobacco growing and still does, and at the museum, you can learn all about it. The museum is housed in the former Reig tobacco factory, which closed in 1957, and shows the process of tobacco production through a display. There is also a nice outdoor terrace for when the weather is nice, and a souvenir shop. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the country’s most important source of income before tourism. In addition to the main exhibitions, there are also several temporary exhibitions dealing with topics not necessarily related to tobacco, such as art, nature and adventure.
Sant Esteve Church and Placa de Poble
This old church in the centre of Andorra La Vella offers picturesque pictures, but is mostly new, except for the original Romanesque arch and stained glass windows. It stands proudly in the city’s historic district. The church was built in the 1100s, and having changed over the years. It is located near the Placa del Poble and the Casa de la Vall and is a functioning church.
The Placa de Poble is the main meeting point for the country’s festivals and celebrations and offers panoramic views of the city. In December, you can enjoy the fun and cosy market there with handmade products, sweets and artisanal food for food lovers.
Tip: There is a lift that goes from the beginning of the square to the lower street next to the government building.
Hiking in the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley
The Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley is the only UNESCO-listed monument in Andorra. It is a valley that serves as a refuge for many endemic species and is considered a spiritual place for the locals. The valley covers 9% of Andorra and consists of an upper part with glacial lakes and cliffs and a lower area. Most of the valley is protected and is an excellent example of the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, which is why UNESCO considers the area to be a great example of this coexistence.
There are several hiking trails in the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley, but the easiest takes about 2 hours on a relatively steep and well-marked stone path. At times the trail turns into stone steps. These trails were originally used by shepherds, later by smugglers and now by hikers.
There are signposts with panels and signs along the trail that tell you more about what you are seeing. You’ll also cross streams and stone bridges, beautiful scenery and well-preserved forests.
Find bus and train routes here.
La Casa de la Vall
One of the top attractions in Andorra La Vella, the country’s capital, is La Casa de la Vall. The historic house was constructed in 1580 as a manor house. From 1702 to 2011, it served as the seat of Andorra’s General Parliament. The first floor of the Casa houses the impressive Disciplinary Court with wooden decorations and furniture. On the second floor is the Hall of Lost Steps – a classy room where you can admire 16th-century paintings.
Visit the town of Meritxell for the stunning basilica of the Nostra Senyora de Meritxell Sanctuary. The sanctuary is Romanesque in style and originally dates back to the 17th century, and has been preserved and restored after a fire in the 1970s. The basilica is known for its ornate statues of its patron saints (one for each parish in Andorra), as well as its cloisters (small convents) and its impressive hall of mirrors. Part of the ancient chapel now houses a museum featuring historical artefacts and works of art celebrating Our Lady of Meritxell.
Naturlandia Theme Park
Naturlandia is the theme park of Andorra. Instead of roller coaster rides, the park offers activities such as hiking and climbing, restaurants and shops, making it one of the most fun places to visit in Andorra.
Divided into two sections, one at an altitude of 1,600m and one at an altitude of 2,000m and connected by road, the park is located in Sant Julia de Lloria, about 15 minutes from Andorra La Vella. It is open all year round, although activities vary depending on the season.
You can go hiking, on Segway (e-scooter) tours, or on bicycle, snowmobile or buggy tours around the park. All of the above are available in sizes for children and adults. There are trampolines, zip lines, inflatable castles, tobotronc and tubing. The little ones have kids’ workshops and other activities to keep them occupied and adults can go on nightly snowmobile adventures.
The animal lodges are located at an altitude of 2,000m and are home to species that are well known to the Pyrenees region, such as wild goats, bears, lynx, deer, wolves, etc. The animals can be observed from specific points. During the winter, special equipment is required to walk around the parking area. There is also a farm with domestic animals such as pigs.
Food in Andorra
Andorra is known for its rustic and incredibly delicious mountain cuisine and no trip to Andorra is complete without a stop at a borda for lunch. The borda are old mountain barns with restaurants and architectural masterpieces found in the north of Catalonia and Andorra, where winters are cold and thick stone walls help protect against snow and wind.
In a borda, you can enjoy meals, mainly meat-based, based on traditional recipes and in hearty portions. Food is usually prepared over an open fire and roasted meats are served with plenty of vegetables, potatoes and garlic.
You can also order other delicacies such as stews, garlic snails ‘a la llauna’ cooked in a baking tray in the oven or horse meat, traditional meat eaten in Andorra.
Useful Sites & Apps
In the last few years we have been travelling we have singled out some applications, which we use before every trip or during it. We have chosen them over others for their validity, ease of use and variety in the options they have to offer. We describe below in detail what these are together with their characteristics.
Booking.com is a popular online booking platform for accommodations worldwide. With a vast selection of hotels, apartments, villas, and more, Booking.com offers travellers the convenience of finding and booking their ideal stay in just a few clicks. The site’s user-friendly interface and extensive filtering options make it easy to narrow down search results based on specific preferences such as price, location, amenities, and more. As a result, Booking.com has become a go-to destination for travellers looking for hassle-free booking options. With competitive pricing and a loyalty program that rewards repeat bookings, Booking.com is a top choice for travellers seeking great deals and a seamless booking experience. Available rooms you can find here.
One of the best, most trustworthy, and most convenient 5-star airport taxi companies for your airport transfer based on user reviews across various platforms such as Google, Tripadvisor, and Trustpilot. Welcome Pickups offers a great experience and safety to its travelers. Local English-speaking drivers, flat, pre-paid fee, flight monitoring for delays, 24/7 Customer support + free cancellation. Check your options here.
With over one million properties all around the world, and always increasing, ideal for a low budget stay even in expensive areas. Furthermore, because you stay in people’s villas, houses or flats you are made to feel more at home by the host of each destination and the homely surroundings.
Hotels.com is a leading provider of hotel accommodation worldwide, offering booking services through its own network of localised websites. Once you reach 10 nights, you’ll have a free night which you can apply at checkout. You can earn multiple free nights by continuing to book with Hotels.com, though. The platform gives travellers one of the widest selections of accommodation on the net, including both independent and major chain hotels as well as self-catering in over hundreds of thousands properties worldwide. The company offers a one-stop shopping source for hotel pricing, amenities and availability. Find the best deals here.
Tripadvisor helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning to booking to taking a trip. Travellers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before. With more than 1 billion reviews and opinions of nearly 8 million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodations, book experiences, reserve tables at delicious restaurants and discover great places nearby. Find available offers and book your accommodation here.
Omio is a leading travel platform that helps you easily plan and book your trips. With a comprehensive network of trains, buses, and flights across Europe and beyond, Omio allows you to compare and choose the best travel options for your needs. Whether you’re looking for a quick day trip or an extended vacation, Omio’s user-friendly interface and competitive prices make it easy to create unforgettable travel experiences. Check available routes here.
Skyscanner is a leading global travel search engine, helping millions of travellers find the best flights, hotels and car rentals. With a user-friendly interface and powerful search technology, Skyscanner makes it easy to compare prices and options across hundreds of travel providers, giving you the best deals for your trip. From budget to luxury, domestic to international, Skyscanner has everything you need to plan your next adventure. So whether you’re travelling for business or leisure, start your journey with Skyscanner and discover the world like never before. Available flights and prices can be found here.
GetYourGuide is an online marketplace for booking travel activities and experiences. With a wide variety of tours, activities, and attractions available in destinations around the world, GetYourGuide makes it easy to find and book unique experiences for your next trip. From city sightseeing tours and food and wine tastings to outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, GetYourGuide has something for every type of traveller. With a user-friendly website and mobile app, and a commitment to customer satisfaction, GetYourGuide is a top choice for travellers seeking memorable and authentic experiences. Book your activities here.
DiscoverCars.com offers a hassle-free car rental booking experience, with a wide range of rental car options available worldwide. Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, DiscoverCars.com offers competitive rates, 24/7 customer support, and flexible cancellation policies. With no hidden fees and a user-friendly interface, booking your rental car has never been easier. Choose from a variety of car rental options, including economy, luxury, and family-friendly vehicles, and enjoy the freedom of the open road on your next adventure. Book with DiscoverCars.com today and start exploring the world on your own terms!
Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room.You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the reliability of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.
City Maps 2Go
Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay. Alternatively, as soon as you have looked at the information on a map you can delete it and then download a new one.
You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.
Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.
iVisa.com is an online platform that helps travellers obtain electronic visas, eVisas, and other travel documents quickly and easily. With an extensive database of travel requirements for over 200 countries and a user-friendly application process, iVisa.com makes it simple for travellers to apply for and obtain the necessary documents for their trips. Whether you’re planning a vacation, business trip, or other travel experience, iVisa.com can help you navigate the complexities of travel documentation with ease. More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and destination can be found here.