Andorra may be small, but it certainly knows how to party, hosting many festivals throughout the year. From ski festivals to music festivals, and even a clown festival, here are 10 underrated festivals and celebrations to visit in Andorra.
The most important of Andorra’s festivals in Our Lady of Meritxell Day, which celebrates the country’s patron saint. The event has been held on September 8th, every year since 1873, and honours the saint by worshiping the replica of Our Lady of Meritxell, housed as the Meritxell Church. On the day of the festival, all shops and businesses close and everyone heads to the Meritxell Church for mass. Afterwards there is a big torch procession, as well as concerts and dancing.
Andorra’s jazz festival is held in Escaldes-Engordany in July, and attracts well-known jazz acts from around the world. Previous years’ line ups have included the likes of Chano Dominguez, John Scofield and Madeleine Peyroux.
Held in the resort of Arinsal, the Horizon Festival is Andorra’s biggest ski festival. It’s a crazy fun-filled event held in the mountains with live bands, DJs, street food and activities such as paintballing. By day there’ll be ski classes and competitions, and by night, there’s everything from dancing and music to forest raves and spa discos.
Held during the first weekend in August, the Festa Major is celebrated in the capital of Andorra de la Vella, and is the country’s top summer event. The festival encompasses everything from street parades and concerts to traditional folk dances, a circus and lots of feasting. Most of the other smaller villages in Andorra also hold their own summer festival.
Narciso Yepes (1927-1997) was a famous Spanish guitarist who is considered to be one of the best of the 20th century. Andorra honours the musician at the Narciso Yepes International Festival in Ordino every October, with a varied musical programme. Previous years have featured a Catalan musical parody of Harry Potter and and a violin and viola duet at Ordino Church.
A few places in northern Spain have Celtic connections, such as in Galicia and Asturias, and this is most evident through the traditional music, like the bagpipes. Bagpipes are also typical instruments in Andorra and many people play them here. Each August, Andorra celebrates this instrument by holding The Bagpipers’ Meeting in Ordino, when bagpipe players from across the region attend to perform and play together.
Andorra is one of the few countries in the world to hold a International Clown Festival just for women. The Festival Pallasses attracts female clowns and comedians from across the world to perform, meet others in their field and share tips.
Andorra celebrates the night of Sant Joan in mid summer like much of Spain, with plenty of bangs, sparkles and bonfires. On the night of June 23rd, villages throughout Andorra hold big bonfires in the village squares, accompanied by lots of music, dancing and fireworks. Something unique to the Pyrenees during Sant Joan is the tradition of creating balls from paper, bark and chickenwire, then setting them alight and swinging them round whilst dressed as witches and devils.
Pasqua means Easter in Catalan, and is celebrated in Andorra in a big way. On Palm Sunday everyone goes to mass and godmothers present their godchildren with palmons for the boys and palmes for the girls. Palmons are large pieces of palm leave, while palmes are delicately woven palm fronds in various colours. Easter Sunday is celebrated by eating Monas – traditional Easter cakes. The original ones are sweet bread rings with candied fruit and hard boiled eggs baked into the top, while modern versions are filled with jam and covered in chocolate.
The village of Sant Julià de Lòria holds its festival over five days during July. The main focus of the festival is music, and during the event there are many performances of bands, orchestras and individual musicians. Festival goers will also find lots of activities for children such as street games, waterslides and magicians, as well as traditional dance performances.