Andorra is one of those places that some people have never even heard of! That was the reason for us to want to go and we really loved it here. Landlocked and surrounded by the Pyrenees Mountains, straddling the borders of both France and Spain, this is really a beautiful country that although quite small, it certainly does pack in a pleasant punch with its beautiful mountainous landscapes that can be enjoyed anytime of the year. The culture in Andorra is primarily Catalan and this is the language that you will hear most often. One of the more notable things about Andorra is that this principality is not part of the EU and therefore has duty-free shopping, which has essentially become an international sport here. Don't get too excited though because there are strict laws on how much you can bring out and also for going into other countries who may tax you on purchases. We drove in and out and no one asked us anything at the borders. Try your luck!
The capital, Andorra la Vella is situated high in the mountains and it is where most of this shopping is carried out. You'll find all of your designer brands, lovely galleries and art shops, perfume shops, and of course, the booze and cigarette shops. Walking around this small city was quite enjoyable and sitting at an outdoor café people watching even more so. Watching people pushing their pets around in strollers was a refreshing sight to see! There are a number of great restaurants, hotels, and upscale spas here with a surprisingly a good value, especially when considering all the country offers.
Andorra is also known as a popular destination in Europe for enjoying winter activities like snowboarding and skiing. When the snow melts it is also the perfect place for hiking and mountain biking and you will see people engaging in all of that if you take a drive to see more of the country. Be warned though, the traffic in the city is no joke. Once you get away from the borders and Andorra la Vella it gets better. Another interesting fact about Andorra it is considered one of the safest cities in the world. Crime is rare and things like muggings are totally unheard of. Andorra is a great destination for families looking for fun things to do, people who like to be outdoors enjoying nature and healthy activities, and shopaholics will appreciate the convenience enhanced by incredible views in every direction.
Andorra is a country that is all about tourism and there is always something going on here whether that be concerts, theatrical performances, or festivals. The most difficult thing about this country is deciding on what to do. If culture and history are on the agenda, Andorra boasts having the highest number of museums per inhabitants in the world. No matter where you are in the country, it is small enough that you can be to any one or more of the twenty here in no time at all. One of the newer museums is here is the Perfume Museum in Escaldes-Engordany, which even has an olfactory station where you can experiment with creating your own scent. Andorra also has over 40 examples of churches, chapels, and monuments that all reflect its rich cultural heritage steeped in rural Romanesque Art.
For those who love the outdoors, you are in the right place. With Only 4% of its land having been built on, this leaves huge expanses of nature to be enjoyed. Because Andorra is all Pyrenees you are surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, beautiful lush valleys, and idyllic meadows. There are three nature parks including Valle del Sorteny in the Ordino parish where there are botanical garden with species-exclusive to the Pyrenees. For hiking, there are routes that are accessible to all levels of fitness. The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a visit here is an excellent way to not only enjoy nature, but to also see how people have lived here through the millenia. Accessible only by walking, the beautiful glacial landscapes complete with valleys and pastures dotted with the remnants of shepherd huts, barns, dairies, and such is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Here you will see how people have lived over hundreds of years and where the practices of pastoralism and an ancient communal system of land management are still in use today.
One of the best things to do in Andorra is making a visit to Naturlandia near the village of Sant Julià de Lòria. This is a huge adventure park that can be enjoyed any time of the year and where all kinds of activities can be engaged in. There is something for everyone here, whether that is enjoying an animal park, ziplining, archery, hiking, cross-country skiing, and so much more. Perfect for families with children and adults alike. For those who want to crank up the adrenaline, our favorite thing in Andorra is the Tobotronc. This is the world's largest nature slide and it is an absolutely thrilling ride on 2-seater trolley that takes you through 5.3 km of forest at speeds of up to 40 km per hour. Experiencing this is as fun as it gets and reason enough to visit the park.
Another excellent way to pass some time is to treat yourself to the Centre Termolúdic Caldea which is the largest spa complex in Europe. Here you will find a multitude of ways to pamper yourself in the 100% thermal waters that come in a variety of spectacular settings, all housed under the best example of modern architecture in Andorra. The Caldea even has tickets that include Naturlandia, making this an easy way to plan your day. Thrills in the morning and chill in the afternoon. A wonderful way to wrap up a perfect day is to have a pleasant dinner and stay overnight in one of the bordes which are the traditional shepherd huts dating over centuries with many of them having been converted into rural lodgings and restaurants.
Exploring some of centuries old Romanesque churches in Andorra is a must do. The Church of Sant Joan de Caselles is in the stunning Valira d’Orient Valley and the Church of Santa Coloma Santa in Andorra la Vella is the country's oldest. Both of these churches are excellent examples of the rural Romanesque architecture and art that Andorra is well known for.
When To Go
Any time is a good time to visit Andorra. This country has positioned itself wisely by providing a perfect place to keep tourists coming back for more, no matter the season or weather. As previously mentioned, there is always something to do here and when all else fails, go shopping!
The season for winter recreation runs from December through April and in May the weather warms up and stays lovely until September. We visited in mid-July and though this is one of the busier times of the year, outside of the typical traffic in the capital, we do not find it to be overrun at all. Being so high up in the mountains, the weather was absolutely perfect.
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