Andorra – Between gray concrete and breathtaking nature
Hardly any other country can offer more contrasts in such a small area. In this small principality in the Pyrenees, temples of consumption with luxury boutiques and breathtaking mountain landscapes await the visitor, which can be explored either on skis, by bike or on foot.
If your curiosity has now been piqued, you should definitely read this post until the end.
The small principality is embedded in the Pyrenees – the mountain range that separates France and Spain. These are also the only neighboring countries of Andorra.
The small country is shaped by many cultural influences. Besides Spain, it is the only country in the world where Catalan is the official language. About 40% of the population state that they use Catalan as their everyday language, and about another third of the population state that Spanish is the most widely spoken language. This underlines the close ties between Andorra and Spain. But there is also a strong connection to France, because it is the only country in the world where two foreign officials share the function of head of state. The Bishop of Urgell in Spain and the President of France, succeeding the Counts of Foix, rule as co-princes in a symbolic dual rule. In addition, an Andorran head of government is elected by the residents of Andorra, who carries out government affairs with his General Council (Consell General de las Valls).
It cannot be taken for granted that a small country like Andorra, squeezed between two major European powers of the modern age, can remain independent for so long. Andorra was founded on September 8, 1278 – how can a country „survive“ for over 700 years without being swallowed up by the two surrounding great powers of Europe? One answer to this could well be one thing – accessibility. It is both a blessing and a curse of the country, because for a long time Andorra was mainly characterized by agriculture and only a few visitors came to the country. It was not until the 1950s that tourism was gradually expanded.
The title of this article does not do justice to the real qualities of the country. But it is also not entirely unjustified.
The most important entry route leads from Spain directly to Andorra la Vella, the capital of the small country. Coming from here, the traveler is greeted by a sadness of gas stations and consumer temples. A landscape made of concrete blocks that don’t really want to fit into this mountain world.
Andorra shows itself differently when you enter from France. There are wonderful new tunnels there, which we would recommend avoiding and instead take the curved pass road from Pas de la Casa to Canillo and on to Andorra la Vella. On this route, the principality shows itself at its best. The view can wander far into the landscape. This part of the country is also where the country’s ski area is located, as practically the entire northeast (from Encamp to Pas de la Casa) is used for skiing in winter.
The north-west of the country (from Pic Negre to Arinsal or Pal) is firmly in the hands of cyclists, especially in summer. If you are not afraid of the hard work of constantly climbing uphill, in Andorra your are absolutely right to complete one or the other mountain tour with your bycicle. But mountain bikers will also find some bike parks off the beaten track to get an adrenaline rush while downhill driving.
Those who want to take it easy can explore the beautiful landscape of the Pyrenees in Andorra on foot. Be it on a stroll through town or on a hike in the surrounding mountains. From each place several hiking routes go up to the peaks and several national parks invite you to explore the mountains of Andorra on foot. The various hiking trails are well signposted and can be easily found using an app from Andorra Turisme.
But be careful! Mobile data can be particularly expensive in Andorra. Either you get your own data package or you use the many free WiFi networks – especially in Andorra la Vella.
If you have forgotten your hiking boots at home or are out and about with small children, you can go for a walk around the Estany d’Engolasters, a small reservoir, and treat yourself to an ice cream with a wonderful view of the valley below.
There is a parking lot right next to the lake, which is easily accessible by car. Even the drive from Andorra la Vella to the reservoir is a real contrast. With every meter that goes up, you move away from the urban surounging to the alpine landscape of the near area.
Click on one of the icons to learn more about it.
Andorra is not a member of the EU or the Schengen Agreement, but since it can only be reached via Spain or France, comparable entry requirements apply.
Important: Non-EU citizens who come from countries that require a visa need a Schengen multi entry visa.
Entry is permitted for EU citizens with a valid identity card or passport as well as a temporary identity card or passport, but the documents should be valid for up to three months after the planned departure. Arrival is only possible by car or bus, as there are no flight or train connections directly into the country.
The speed limit is staggered as follows:
– urban: maximum 40 km / h
– out of town on main and secondary roads: maximum 90 km / h
Even if it should actually be a matter of course not to drive a vehicle while drunk, there is a blood alcohol limit of 0.5 per mille in Andorra.
Carrying high-visibility vests, a warning triangle and a first-aid kit is mandatory.
Andorra sometimes has considerably lower prices than the surrounding countries due to tax law. However, the prices should be compared carefully. The import and export restrictions for tobacco products, coffee products, fuels and alcoholic beverages must be observed.