For me the ski season is over, but for some it is still going on. If you want to relax in the sunshine, Andorra is perfect for you. This small country located in the Pyrenees offers perfectly prepared infrastructure for both beginners and advanced skiers and snowboarders. Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe with an interesting history and landscapes. Andorra was founded by Charles the Great, who in return for help in the fight against the Moors gave the inhabitants of these areas city rights. Later, there was a dispute between France and Catalonia for it. In 1278, the Catalan bishop of Urgel and the French counts of Foix made an agreement, and since then the authority over Andorra is common.
ANDORA AND WEATHER
Andorra is completely covered with mountains (the highest peak is Pic Alt de la Coma Pedrosa – 2946 m above sea level, located on the border with Spain and small valleys) so, although it lies in the subtropical climate zone, it has a mountain climate. The average annual temperature is from 6 ° C to 9 ° C. As a result, most of the year is cold and in the summer there is no heat (maximum 20 ° C). In winter, the average value in the valleys remains at 0 ° C. Most days are sunny, but there are violent storms and rainstorms (especially in October and May). Winter lasts up to 6 months, it is snowy and often frosty. In the highest parts of the mountains it happens that the snow does not melt at all. The warmest month is August, when the maximum temperature is around 26 ° C and usually the third week is the hottest. The coldest month is January. The rainiest month in Andorra La Vella is April.
Necessary documents: a passport or ID card ( EU citizens) is sufficient for visa-free entry and stay up to 90 days. It is also worth taking a driving license with a registration certificate (we travel by car). Unfortunately, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not apply, entitling to free medical care in the public sector. The invoice issued by the doctor must be settled later with a private insurance company after returning home. The cost of an ordinary doctor’s visit is 60 €.
Currency: Euro, it is best to take with you or withdraw money from the Euronet ATM (others charge a high commission).
Shopping: There is a duty-free zone, however, when the purchased goods are exported to neighboring countries (Spain, France), the regulations in line with the EU standard are in force. You can, for example, export 800 cigarettes, 110 liters of beer, 10 liters of spirits, 20 liters of wine with an increased alcohol content, 90 liters of ordinary wine, souvenirs – without restrictions.
Sample prices in Andorra: sandwich on the slope 6 €, juice on the slope 3-4 €, pizza on the slope 12 €, tapas 6 – 18 €, beer 4-5 €, juice squeezed from oranges 4-5 €, water 0.5l 0.6-1 €,
Voltage and sockets: 230 V.
Water: you can drink from the tap, but I recommend mineral water from the store.
Traffic on the street: right-hand traffic, high fines are at risk of speeding.
What to eat: pa Amb Tomaquet (bread with pulp of tomato), Trinxat Escudella, cheese, Torrijas, Crema Andorrana / Catalana, sausage Embotits, fish Truta a la Andorrana.
SKI CONDITIONS & TREKKING
The ski season lasts in Andorra from December to April. The routes are quite short, but it is picturesque and it is easy to move from one resort to another thanks to the network of as many as 74 lifts without queues and without having to take off the ski or bus.
For example, the ski pass for the Grandvalira ski area (here prices) the largest in the Pyrenees, includes ski resorts: Encamp, Canillo, El Tarter, Soldeu, Grau Roig and Pas de la Casa (ticket prices here). Therefore, every day we can go to another place, and then go to the apres ski e.g. near the ice hotel Igloo Hotel at an altitude of 2300 m – the only such hotel in the south of Europe. For renting the equipment i recommend this page. It’s much cheaper to reserve in advance online than in shop.
It is best to buy carnets online here prices) or through ski resorts, because then we have a discount. For example, a 4-day pass costs 177 € and pass insurance 1 € per day. Unfortunately, ski busses are additionally payable (Andorra – Encamp 1,85 €, El Tarter – Encamp 3.35 €) so the most profitable is a carnet for 10 trips for 13.75 €.
In total, we get access to 210 km of ski runs: 18 green, 38 blue, 32 red and 22 black. 4 virgin routes, snow parks. The ski infrastructure and trails will also be appreciated by freestyle, freeride and bordercross enthusiasts.
You will not be bored also people who like mountain hiking. For them, I recommend the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley, which is on the list of UNESCO’s world heritage.
ENTERTAINMENT AFTER SLOPE
In Andorra, there are plenty of cool bars and restaurants for evening relaxation. Personally, for dinner I recommend Restaurant 120 and L’Informal in Andorra La Vella and on the slopes in Encamp, La Cirera restaurant. If we are too tired to play, we can always go to the thermal spa Caldea Thermal SPA (one of the largest mountain spas in Europe). The place is beautiful in terms of architecture and has quite big pool with thermal water, but we can be disappointed with the temperature. To my surprise, both the sauna and the bathhouse were not that warm. Also, the water in the pools is not too warm. I think, however, that it is worth to go and buy a ticket in a package with dinner for 44 €.
Andorra borders on the north with France, and on the south with Spain. It is located in the middle of the Pyrenees. It is an independent co-supremacy, ruled by the Spanish bishop Seo de Urgel and the president of France, covering just 468 sq km. The first roads connecting the Andorra valleys to the outside world for vehicles were built in 1913 (towards Spain) and in 1931 (towards France ).
There is an airport here, but most people commute by car or bus from neighboring countries. I decided to fly to Barcelona, and then take a direct bus to Andorra (about 30 € one way). Buses run almost every hour from morning to evening, as this route is quite popular. Spaniards often travel to Andorra not only for white madness, but also for shopping. The trip lasts three hours and the stops are at the airport as well as at the Sans and Nord stations. In my opinion, it is better to buy a ticket earlier via the Internet here. It goes a bit cheaper and we miss the queue.
It’s not hard to find accommodation in Andorra. There are many hotels with a different standard. For us the most comfortable city for the night turned out to be Andorra La Vella because of the bus stop. Andorra is located in the south-western part of the country, near the Valila del Norte estuary to the Valila river in the Gran Valira valley and the highest European capital. I recommend the hotel Marfany (106 € for 3 nights), which has a central location in relation to the main promenade and is a few minutes’ walk from the bus stop, from which we can reach cabin lift in Encamp to get in about 30-40 min to the Funicamp lift.
TAX HAVEN & SHOPPING ZONE
In addition to tourism, Andorra is also famous for shopping. There are over 4,800 stores in it. Andorra does not belong to the European Union. In connection with what became a tax haven and a huge shopping center attracting crowds of shoppers. Personally, I do not understand this madness. Apparently, this is due to low prices and a lack of VAT. In my opinion, it’s marketing, because most stores were expensive for me. Maybe sometimes there are some gems in electronics, but you also have to be very careful. I have been overcharged many times to later give a huge discount, at which we still pay more than the market. However, judging by the crowds on the streets and in shops for most tourists, this lure works.
WHAT TO SEE
The city of Andorra is not only a winter resort and a tax haven. It is also a place with interesting architecture referring to the Middle Ages. The monuments include stone Romanesque churches (there are as many as 13) from the eighth and thirteenth centuries. Three of them are in Andorra La Vella – Sant Esteve, Sant Coloma with the famous belfry and Sant Vincenc d’Encla.
In addition, it is worth visiting the stone house Casa de la Vall with late Gothic frescoes, which is currently the seat of government and the judiciary. Inside, there is also the Wardrobe of the Seven Keys, in which symbolic keys to the seven parishes are stored.
If we have time, we can take a bus tour around other places. In Sant Julia de Loria there are four Romanesque churches from the 11th century. The best known are Sant Julia and Sant Germa with a three-storey bell tower. In Canillo we can visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady Meritxell-Patroness of the Valleys.
In Encamp, apart from a lot of hotels and restaurants, it is worth visiting mainly the churches of Sant Miguel de la Mosquera and Santa Eulalia with an interesting bell tower. Noteworthy is the Roman bridge in La Massana – Pont de Sant Antonio. In La Massana the biggest attraction is the highest peak of the country (Pic Alt de la Coma Pedrosa), which is located within the city limits.