Being located slap bang in the middle of the Pyrenees means that Andorra is one of the top winter sports destinations in Europe. The country is home to many different winter resorts. Some of the biggest and the best are Soldeu, Grandvalira and Vallnord.
As well as winter sports, it’s shopping that perhaps surprisingly attracts many to this small country. The capital of the country, Andorra de la Vella, as well as the main road leading into Spain, are lined with department stores, fashion boutiques and hypermarkets – over 5,000 in total. One of the main reasons why the country became a shopper’s paradise is because it’s a tax-free haven, meaning it’s the place to grab bargains on typically expensive brands. One of the best places to shop, with everything in one place, is the Pyrenees Department Store. Luxury brands of perfumes, tobacco, alcohol and cosmetics are the main products available here.
Andorra is punctuated with many Romanesque-style churches, which stand out against its mountainous landscape. Made from stone and slate, some of the most striking include the church of Sant Joan de Caselles, the church of Santa Eulalia and the church of Sant Clement de Pal.
Andorra is home to three Natural Parks – the Valle de Sorteny, Madriu-Perafita-Claror and the Valles del Comapedrosa. Madriu-Perafita-Claror is the biggest of the three, covering 40,000 hectares – it has even been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its uniqueness. Some of the animals who call the parks and forests home include golden eagles, bearded vultures, lizards, foxes and even wolves and bears.
Andorra’s cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours, France and Spain, and in especially Catalunya, with which it also shares a language and many cultural traditions. Its national dish is Escudella, a hearty stew made with a light broth and filled with chunks of meat and vegetables, as well as white beans or chickpeas. Large pasta shells are also typically added. Snails are also popular, as well as mountain game such as hare and wild boar. As Andorra doesn’t have a coastline, seafood is obviously scarce, however there is a lot of trout to be found in its freshwater mountain streams.
There are only a few countries in the world where you can stay in a hotel made of ice and snow – and Andorra is one of them. The Iglu Hotel is located at an altitude of 2,350m and has five rooms made entirely from ice and snow, as well as a restaurant, spa, living rooms and a warm room. With soft pastel lighting, exquisite ice carvings, snow sculptures and beds covered in soft furs to keep you warm, this is a magical place.
Andorra is home to Europe’s largest mountain spa – the Caldea spa complex – rising from the city like a shiny rocket. The perfect place to relax your muscles after a day on the slopes, it’s fed by natural hot springs and features a large lagoon, as well as Turkish baths, hydro-massage pools and saunas – there is even a special spa area for kids. At night, the complex turns into a discotheque-like environment with bright flashing lights, music and colour.
Yes Andorra may be small, but it’s lively too. Thanks to its ski resorts and millions of tourists who visit each year, it’s a great place to party. All of the main ski resorts have vibrant après-ski bars, while the capital of Andorra la Vella is packed with all kinds of pubs, clubs and lounges, where DJs spin the latest tunes.
Nothing can quite prepare you for Andorra’s awe-inspiring views – they’re everywhere in this pint-sized country – almost everywhere you look. Some of the best views can be seen from up high while you’re skiing or hiking in among the mountains themselves. Think snow-capped covered peaks, sharp-edged green rocks, sparkling sapphire lakes and undulating ridges as far as the eye can see.
In winter Andorra is all about the skiing and snowboarding, but in summer it’s all about the hiking. Andorra’s main route is the GRP, which encircles the whole country. It takes about a week to complete and, although challenging in parts, is not particularly difficult or dangerous. It can even be done in small sections, for those who don’t want to do the whole loop.