Andorra, Small But Mighty
Most North American tourists when planning a visit to Europe often forget about Andorra, a small country sandwiched in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. At only 180 square miles, perhaps these vacationers can be forgiven their oversight. This article intends to dispel the notion that Andorra’s size does not mean a lack of activities and wonderful sights.
Activities Year Round
Due to its position in the mountains, the country is associated firstly with skiing. Indeed, it has a great number of slopes and resorts. If you do not ski, wintertime activities can also include snowmobiling, snow shoeing, and dog sledding on the many trails. Guided nighttime forays are very popular.
In the summer, these trails give over to biking and hiking. There are over sixty hiking trails with periodic mountain refuges in which to overnight. The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley has fabulous unspoiled scenery and is a great example of the nature sights you may see hiking.
Hiking (Image: Ruben Bagues on UnSplash)
Many Ski Slopes For Your Enjoyment (Image: Bigstock)
Dog Sledding (Image: Bigstock)
Shops & Restaurants
Any time of the year you can shop ‘til you drop duty-free with the shops closing on only four days during the year. There is even a shopping festival in August! The Euro is the currency of choice with clothes, sporting equipment, jewelry, and perfume some of the favorite purchases of visitors. The capital city, Andorra la Vella, has an extensive shopping district. If you tire of shopping, relax in a spa or wellness center.
Andorra has fine cuisine too and is re-establishing a high-altitude wine industry. For all it has very little developed areas (about 4% of the country), fresh produce, dairy, and other farm products feature in the cooking.
History on Offer
If history is one of your passions, this is the country for you, having the most museums per square mile other than Vatican City. Several themed routes can take you exploring the countryside visiting theme-related museums and monuments. For example, the Rural Habitat route leads you to Casa Rull where a typical homestead is restored to showcase the life of the occupants prior to the twentieth century. Everyone working the farm or establishment lived under one roof from the owner to the peasant he employed. Examples of other routes, amongst many, are the Iron Route and the Granite Architecture Route.
As to “granite”, you will notice many buildings will be built or decorated with grandiorite, a type of stone that is traditional and sourced locally. It gives the buildings quite a distinctive appearance.
Crowded shopping district in Andorra La Vella (Image: Bigstock)
Church on the mountainside (Image: Pixabay)
Pasture where you can (Image: Pixabay)
Useful Points To Know
A few other points worth noting about this country and which may be useful to the visitor:
- Andorra is a principality with one of the oldest parliaments in Europe (1419) and smallest (28 members). It is a co-principality of France with the two co-princes being the current President of France and the Bishop of Urgell (in Spain). The country was formed in 1278.
- The office language is Catalan though most also speak Spanish or French. English is spoken but is not as widespread as the others.
- Andorra has a much higher standard of living than its neighbors and ranks #5 in longevity of life for its citizens.
- About ten per cent of Andorra has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- There is no army – really! The military can be a common sight elsewhere in Europe.
- North American visitors do not require a visa but need a valid passport.
- There is also no airport! And no train system! The topography is too high – sixty-five hundred plus mountain peaks with deep, narrow valleys. Roads are the transportation system.
- You can travel to Andorra by car or rental car, and bus from France or Spain. Recently a Spanish airline has established a service from Madrid to Andorra-La Sue (LEU), an airport still in Spain but near the border with Andorra. Similarly, you can travel there by train stopping is some communities close by to the country’s border but not within the country itself.
The old traditional building vs. the modern city in background (Image: Tom Parandyk on UnSplash)
Grandiorite around an old door (Image: Pixabay)
Road through a mountain valley (Image: Bigstock)
Plan Your Visit
In summary, Andorra is not a country you will visit on your next river cruise or ocean cruise, and indeed, most guided tour itineraries. That should not stop you from visiting this prosperous and scenic place, perhaps on a custom pre-or post cruise vacation, or by having your travel professional craft, or include, Andorra on a custom tour. You will be so enchanted by the country’s natural beauty, outdoor culture, and prosperity you might be temped to take up permanent residency. Oops! This option is currently not allowed; you must become a citizen to remain! But tourists are welcomed with open arms. Plan this adventure today.
Stunning scenery everywhere you look (Image: Diya B on UnSplash)
The main image of a hiker in the Andorra Pyrenees is courtesy of Pixabay.
Article first appeared on Real Travel Experts.