The small country of Andorra is famous for its ski resorts, sunny weather, thermal springs, picturesque nature, and a tax-free zone throughout the country. There is a place for both a noisy holiday with friends and a quiet family vacation. And lovers of culture and tradition will definitely find something to explore in Andorra's historical sites and museums.
The economy of Andorra is almost entirely built on ski tourism because it's an idea made in heaven to go skiing and snowboarding due to favorable natural and climatic conditions. Ski resorts are united into two large zones — Grandvalira and Vallnord. The first zone includes slopes of various complexity levels, while the second one is intended mainly for beginners. However, there are many other ways to relax and get new emotions.
In fact, Andorra is a basin surrounded by mountain peaks. The highest point is the peak of Coma Pedrosa (2943 m). The proximity of the Mediterranean slightly softens the harshness of the mountain climate, so Andorra is considered to be one of the sunniest countries.
Administratively, it is divided into seven parishes (Parroc), and those, in turn, consist of quarters (quarts).
What to see and where
The town of Encamp is located 7 km from the capital, in the ski area of Grandvalira. It is very easy to get to the popular slopes Pas de la Casa and Grau Roig on the Funicamp cable car. During high season, there is a free bus to the ski lift, and a special small train runs from the city to the ski area. By the way, with the help of this lift, you can also get to the slopes from Escaldes. Encamp has many sports complexes, saunas, cafes, and shops for the most sophisticated tourists. Historical attractions include the Church Of Sant Roma De Les Bons and ancient houses. Take the cable car up to Lake Engolasters (1616 meters), which offers stunning views of the Encamp Valley.
For those who love cultural recreation, we recommend going to the northern town of Ordino. There are no ski slopes here, and the nearest ones are in the Vallnord zone (Arcalís – Ordino Slopes). But Ordino is known as the historical and cultural center of Andorra. Here, in addition to historical buildings in the Romanesque style, there is a unique Museum of Miniature with works of the famous Nikolai Syadristy, Casa d'Areny-Plandolit house-museum (XVII-XIX centuries), the Museum of the Post Office and an unusual for Catholic Europe Museum of Orthodox iconography of St. George. Not far from Ordino, there is the village of La Cortinada, which has a Museum of Nature of Andorra, as well as a mill and sawmill with working mechanisms of the XVII-XVIII centuries. We recommend to visit the trails of the Sorteny Valley reserves, to admire the picturesque nature, to get acquainted with flora and fauna of Andorra.
The town of Escaldes is famous for its thermal springs of Caldea, which are rich in sodium and other useful minerals. Their water is used both for medicinal purposes and in various water attractions. Be sure to visit the Perfume Museum and learn everything about the world of scents. You can also visit a cultural center for contemporary art with a collection of handicraft items.
Things to consider when going to Andorra
- Tiny Andorra has no airport or railway station, so you will have to take a bus from Spain or France to get here. It's convenient to travel from Barcelona in Spain and from Toulouse in France. There is a small airport, La Seu d'Urgell, 12 km south of Andorra, which currently serves only private airplanes. And 10 kilometers to the east is the nearest railway station Gare d'Andorre-L'Hospitalet, from where you can get to Toulouse, and then take a high-speed train to Paris.
- If you are traveling in your own car, but you don't have much experience driving on difficult routes, be twice as careful, because the mountain roads in Andorra are very steep. Watch out for signs that alert you about curves and wild animals. We also recommend that you take care of anti-slip products for your car's wheels. Speed is limited, both on the slopes and in the cities (no more than 40 km/h in the city, and 60-90 km/h outside the city). Almost all parking lots here are paid. If you do not have a personal car, the easiest way to get around the country is by bus. The routes connect all cities and resorts. It is not profitable to take a taxi.
- Though it is possible to buy various goods and even luxury items at a very low price here, at the same time, the Andorran authorities pursue a strict policy of restrictions on the export of goods without a declaration. So, if you are an avid shopaholic, you should make purchases taking into account that one adult can take out goods for no more than 525 euros. There are additional restrictions on certain categories (food, alcohol, tobacco).
- As in Spain, most public institutions in Andorra close during the day for a three-hour siesta (approximately from 2 to 5 PM).
- During the winter period (end of December - end of February) and from the end of June to the end of August, Andorra has a sale season. Prices for some goods almost drop by half.
The best time to visit Andorra
We recommend that you come to Andorra in the second half of December because this is the time when various holidays, annual festivals, fairs, and other cultural and entertainment events are held. Christmas is especially fun, as the population is generally Catholic. However, there are also plenty of festivities at other times of the year, such as Constitution Day on 14 March and the Mare de Déu de Meritxell on 8 September, which coincides with the National Day of Andorra.