Andorra is situated on the eastern side of the Pyrenees about 160 km’s west of Perpignan. Its average height above sea level is 2000 meters and its capital Andorra la Vella is at 1000 meters. Its temperature goes from 2 degrees in winter to 20 degrees in summer though that will depend on altitude.
It’s best known by tourists for its ski resorts, though it is beautiful in summer also and good for hiking, climbing and cycling. There is also golf!
For myself, I visited in late March with a motorcycling friend and we rode around the passes enjoying the amazing panoramas. My friend’s bike developed brake problems early on and he left it at a garage in the capital so we rode around two up on my bike which was interesting and maybe a little scary for him.
You can reach Andorra by land from Toulouse in the north, Perpignan in the east or Barcelona from the south. You can fly into any of these cities and rent a car for around a two and half hour drive into the principality. There is also a train station fairly near, though you would have to get a taxi the final distance.
It is known as a principality because it is headed by two ‘princes’, currently a Catalan bishop and the president of France.
It is one of the smallest countries in Europe and has a population of 80,000 people. Tourism though brings in 10 million visitors a year.
The Andorran’s are ethnically related to the Catalans, and Catalan, French, Spanish and Portuguese are spoken there by the different groups that make up the population.
Tourism is the main industry there, especially skiing, and if you would like to try somewhere different to the Alps it has some very good resorts. There are two main areas Grandvalira and Vallnord. Arinsal is a good resort for beginners and intermediates, and Soldeu and Pas de la Casa are good for all levels.
We skied at Pas de la Casa and Arinsal/Arcalis (I forget which), and in late March Pas de la Casa was a bit slushy around the bottom of the runs but I’m sure would be good in season. It is known for its apres ski. Andorra was good for 2-3 days skiing and an interesting interlude to our motorcycle tour down to and around Iberia.
Andorra has some of its own culinary specialties: Escudella (stew), Cargols (snails), grilled fish in ham and a fair few more to try. Mulled wine is popular to drink as well as beer.
Some tourists enjoy the shopping as it is tax free and prices are cheaper than neighboring France and Spain.
Culturally, folk dancing and folk music is still practiced by the locals and has similarities with Catalan dancing. Historically it was quite isolated, but now with modern communications much less so.
Andorra is a good little break and makes a pleasant change from the alpine resorts and is still cheaper than France. The mountains are no less beautiful and in summer a welcome respite from the Mediterranean heat down at the coast.