The principality of Andorra is in the heart of the Pyrenees in Europe, and is one of Europe’s six microstates. It is not a member of the European Union, however it does use the Euro. The country is a parliamentary co-principality with the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Urgell (Catalonia, Spain). The official language is Catalonian, but Spanish and Portuguese are widely spoken due to immigration from neighbouring countries and South America.
Andorra is the 17th smallest country in the world (6th in Europe), and you can spend a day in the country and see everything. There are no airports in Andorra so there are two ways to get to the country by public transport. AndBus have buses from Barcelona (€36) and Toulouse (€39) one way (2019). Both take around three hours, depending on traffic and the weather.
The capital city is Andorra La Vella, which is home to around 22,000 and is the largest city in the country, which has a population of just 77,000 (2019). This country does not want to be heavily populated, with the process to become a citizen taking up to 20 years! Only 33% of the population are Andorran nationals!
Within the capital there are a couple of things to see. If you have taken the bus into Andorra I would start from the bus station.
Nearby, a five-minute walk north is Casa De La Vall. Built in 1580 it was originally a manor and tower defence. Now is used for the General Council of Andorra.
Slightly to the east of Casa De La Vall you will come to Parc Central. This is one of a few parks you’ll find in the city centre and is a great spot to relax and have some food. The park also is connected to the La Valira river walk.
The La Valira runs right through the city, and there is a trail on both sides for you to enjoy a walk/run on (although it’s quite short as the city itself isn’t huge – so you may want to do laps if you want to go for a “long” run!).
Right in the centre of town there are the usual shops, with a special addition of hundreds of duty-free shops! At one point every second felt like a duty-free shop… selling all kinds of goods from souvenirs, to booze, to guns, to lighters…. wait what? Yep, you heard it right – guns in shop windows again. Just like its fellow microstate San Marino, weapons of all kinds feature in duty-free shop windows.
The biggest attraction in Andorra is the Nobility of Time Sculpture, with the Pont de Paris bridge in the background and the capital’s name written across it.
The Nobility of Time Sculpture was created by Salvador Dali to symbolise the passage of time, signifying time’s mastery over humanity.
Some other things you may want to see in the capital are the Calidea I la Dama del Gel – which is a water fountain sculpture – and the Església de Sant Esteve, which is a church that dates back to the 11th and 12th century (restored in the 20th century).
When you walk around the city, you will find random sculptures scattered throughout, which bring a sense of culture to the city.
However, this towering building certainly did look out of place to me, in the context of the beautiful mountainous backdrop.
If you went to Andorra just to see the capital, you’d be making a huge mistake as the surrounding areas are so beautiful must go and explore.
Andorra is well known for its skiing in winter and hiking in the summer, with several options available for each.
In 2004 the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley was made a UNESCO World Heritage site. This valley not only offers stunning views, but contains hiking trails that vary in length from 3 to 7 hours, depending how far into the valley you wish to hike.
Lake Engolasters is another beautiful sight for every traveller to see in Andorra. Formed from a glacier depression it has a beautiful deep blue colour. Certainly, it is a place where you could stand and enjoy the silence for ages.
One final must-see spot on your trip is Mirador Roc Del Quer. This is a viewing platform that overlooks the small town of Canillo.
The viewpoint hangs out over the valley below (Don’t look down through the glass if you are afraid of heights) and it really gives you a sense of flying through the Pyrenees valleys. It takes a while to get to this view as it involves a long hike that is not accessible for all ages, however Mirador Roc Del Quer is an easy drive up the mountain, which will ensure people of all ages can have that feeling of flying.
A sculpture sits at the end of the walkway known as “The Ponderer”, which shows a person in a meditative state enjoying the views of the Pyrenees and inviting visitors to share in this mentality. He also has great back muscles for some random reason!
And there you have it, a short and sweet visit to Andorra. There isn’t a great deal to do within this microstate, however the natural beauty of this country can really make it an enjoyable short visit.