A year ago, if someone had asked, “point to Andorra”, I would have clumsily skimmed through a map of Europe before frustratingly caving in and Googling the country on my tablet. However, all great discoveries happen by accident, and an impromptu suggestion from my misses certainly was one of the best ‘accidents’ we have ever encountered.
The word ‘microstate’ never crossed my mind when describing a travel spot. Whilst planning a weekend birthday getaway in Barcelona, we glanced north of Spain’s Catalonia region and found tiny Andorra, nestled quietly between the Spanish-French border. We then recalculated our itineraries and then quickly hired a car online.
The country, also known as the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, is wholly encapsulated within the Pyrenees mountains and is a healthy blend of ski resort, nature reserve, open-air history museum, duty-free shopper’s paradise, and yes, a tax haven. Catalan is the official language, but Spanish, French, and Portuguese are also widely spoken in addition to English in order to accommodate tourists from all over.
Founded in 1278, the country is one of a few in the world ruled by a co-principality (a power share between two princes); currently ruled by the President of France (now Emmanuel Macron) and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell (now Joan Enric Vives i Sicilia).
The country is a scenic collage of gigantic mountains, gondolas, Romanesque and Baroque architecture, forests, and quaint villages surrounding its capital, Andorra la Vella. We arrived at the easternmost part of Andorra via the French border to a town known as Pas de la Casa (literally, “the pass of the house” due to only one shepherd’s house existing here until the 20th century). The city has since become a vibrant ski resort complete with specialty shops, restaurants, and accommodations for every budget.
In order to dodge an approaching snowstorm, we drove early in the morning along the CG-2, a weaving motorway stitched across Andorra’s mountainous brow, to visit the other cities. We passed quickly through Ordino, a village linked to Andorra’s rich medieval heritage, for a brief stroll and coffee break, and then into Andorra la Vella; the star attraction.
The following photos are some of our favourite takeaways from what we experienced:
For more information, kindly visit Turisme d’Andorra, the official website of Andorra’s tourism industry. For car hires to travel to Andorra, kindly visit Goldcar Budget Rentals.