Have you ever heard of Andorra? – You definitively wouldn’t want to miss this tiny and beautiful country. Check this ultimate Andorra Travel Guide with lots of tips and ideas to help you with travel planning.
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*This post was updated in Feb 2023
Andorra Travel Guide: All You Need To Know
Whether you’re looking for new adventurous winter activities or planning a romantic getaway in Spain, if you love the Spanish Pyrenees – set your eyes on Andorra, the 6th smallest state in Europe. Let me share this Andorra Travel Guide to fill you in with all the details you need to know in order to have an epic trip to this tiny and beautiful country.
Whenever I feel the urge to escape the Spanish beaches in search of fresh mountain air and new awesome hikes, three unique destinations in the Pyrenees immediately pop up in my mind – Huesca region in Aragon, Baqueira Beret in Catalonia, and Andorra. I know that the words “I feel the urge to escape the Spanish beaches” slightly feel like they´ll be followed by the phrase “said no one ever”. But being an expat in the Valencia province for the past 10 years has developed in my heart a secret obsession for alternative travel experiences that go beyond enjoying the winter sun in Spain.
Therefore, mountains literally call me a few times every year.
This trip was my second time in Andorra. Back in 2006, I visited this tiny country with my parents: we spent the whole week skiing, as well as exploring the capital of Andorra La Vella. But things do evolve so quickly in the modern travel world that this 2016 (10 years after my first trip), I was already longing to return to Andorra for a few days to see what could have possibly changed.
By the way, you already have a new article about Andorra available after my 3rd visit – Romantic Weekend Getaway to Andorra.
Let me share this Andorra Travel Guide so that you can make the most out of your visit. Also, in this article, I will share a few general facts and tips for the first-timers.
Where is Andorra
While everyone here in Spain knows about Andorra, I lately meet more and more international travelers who have never heard of it.
So, Andorra is a beautiful and tiny country, landlocked in the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France. It is the 6th smallest nation in Europe, known for the lowest VAT and the world-class ski resorts.
Technically, Andorra is not part of the European Union, although the official currency is Euro. Andorra is ruled by a democratic parliament, with two co-heads of state – the President of France and the Catholic Bishop of Urgell, Spain (although both have a symbolic power).
The country has around 75000 residents and receives close to 8 million tourists every year.
Andorra´s capital is the city of Andorra La Vella. The official language is Catalan, but you won´t have problems moving around with Spanish or English. Many people in Andorra also speak French.
Traveling to Andorra
Andorra by car
Most visitors get to Andorra by car. Even though there´s a customs office at the border, the line goes fast (as they usually don´t check your papers, or at least in my experience). However, they do stop random cars once you´re leaving Andorra. Mainly, because the prices for alcohol, tobacco, electronic devices, and some other products are relatively cheaper in Andorra than in the rest of Europe. So, they try to avoid illegal export.
But beware of the traffic jams at the entrance on Friday and Saturday mornings (or the Spanish holidays), as well as leaving on Sunday evenings. This is when most of the Spaniards cross the border to return home and you might get stuck in traffic for a few hours. Also, if you´re heading to Andorra in winter – keep an eye on traveling via CG-2 headway near the ski stations of Encamp, Canillo, and El Tarter- Grandvalira. From 8.30 – 9.30 and from 17.00-19.00 there´s a huge traffic jam when the ski slopes open and close.
Andorra by public transport
There is no international airport in Andorra, although the nearest Spanish small town of Seu d´Urgell has a tiny one. Nevertheless, visitors mostly fly into the nearby airports of Barcelona or Toulouse.
If you plan to visit Andorra by train, the nearest French train station is L´Hospitalet-pres L´Andorre (11 km from Andorra´s border) and Lleida Pirineos in Spain. Note, that the Spanish high-speed train AVE (from both Madrid and Barcelona) reaches Lleida Pirineos Train Station. From the train stations, you can easily reach Andorra by bus, check the schedules here.
Where to stay?
Andorra is a popular getaway destination for the Spaniards. Accommodation is mostly overpriced, but you can still find something for every budget. Many visitors and locals stay and live outside of Andorra, in the nearest Spanish small towns. Note that this way you will waste more time on traffic (especially if you plan to ski), even though technically you cross the Spain-Andorra border fast. But during the winter peak season (Dec – Feb), there are usually significant traffic jams near the main ski lifts towards Grandvalira slopes – Encamp, Canillo, and El Tarter ( 8.30/9.30 and from 17.00/19.00).
Add to this another traffic jam to enter/exit the country around the same hours (many locals work in Andorra and live in Spain as it´s cheaper this way). So, even though you only have 9 km from the nearest town of Seu D´Urgell to Andorra´s border – this might be a few minutes or a few hours, depending on the time of the day.
Andorra La Vella
As you might have imagined, I’ve tried all the options. During my first trip, we stayed at Holiday Inn Andorra in the capital of Andorra La Vella: it was really comfortable to explore local shops and cafes, and we would leave the hotel a bit earlier in the morning to avoid traffic towards the ski stations.
Seu D ´Urgell/ Spain
This time, on my second trip, we stayed at Castell de Cuitat in Seu D ´Urgell. As we knew about the rush-hour traffic, we planned it all wisely and did not encounter any delays during these few days. But if my trip was longer, let´s say a week, I’d rather stay inside Andorra, in order to feel more relaxed and less tied to the schedules.
Small Towns of Andorra
On my third visit, we stayed in La Massana, one of Andorra´s small towns. So far it´s been my favorite option. We did not ski this time, but it would be entirely possible if arriving at the slopes at least 30 mins before the opening (or maybe, one hour after it). While there are lots of amazing things to do in Andorra for non-skiers, living in Encamp, Canillo, or El Tarter is obviously great to make the most of your time at the slopes.
This way you completely forget about all the parking and traffic issues, but yes, – the accommodation near the slopes is quite pricy in winter. Plus, if you want to do some sightseeing in Andorra (which was my case ever since I´ve crossed skiing of my Andorra bucket list), you’ll need to move around a lot anyway. So, there´s no reason to pay extra to see the ski station from your window, unless you’re going to make the most of it.
Things to do in Andorra
1. Explore Andorra la Vella
Andorra la Vella is the capital of Andorra. It is a beautiful small town with lots of modern buildings nestled in between the traditional architecture. Here, you can find lots of shops, cafes, restaurants, a few historical sights and museums, and Spa Caldea.
Once in Andorra La Vella, don’t miss:
- Casa de la Vall: one of the oldest parliaments in Europe, built at the end of the XVI century (they organize guided visits)
- Plaça del Poble: from here you can see 7 Poets sculpture by Jaume Plensa
- Medieval churches with Romanesque origins – Iglesia de Sant Esteve, Santa Coloma, Sant Pere Martir, Capella Sant Andreu
- Casa Guillemó and Casa Felipó
- La Noblesse du temps (eng.The Nobility of Time) – a Salvador Dali statue
- av. Meritxell, c.Bonaventura, and av.Carlemany -the main shopping streets of Andorra
- Museo Carmen Thyssen and Andorra Land Art
- Ancient bridges: Pont D´Engordany, Pont dels Escalls, Pont de la Margineda, Pont Pla, Pont de la Tossa
I suggest your start your Andorra La Vella walking tour at the Local Tourist Office, where they can provide you with maps and guidebooks. You can also buy there a prepaid internet/phone SIM card (last time I checked it was 8 euros per 1GB). While you might know that there is no roaming in Europe nowadays – this rule does NOT apply to Andorra, as it is not an EU member.
Also read: Exploring Top Attractions in Navarra, Spain
Although most of the cafes, restaurants, and shopping centers in Andorra have a free Wi-Fi. Officially, the shopping streets av. Meritxell, c.Bonaventura, and av.Carlemany all have free internet, but it was not working for me.
2. Skiing in winter
If you’re visiting during the winter months one of the top things to do in Andorra is to test the local ski slopes. The country is known for its two world-class ski resorts – Grandvalira and Vallnord, with the first one being the largest ski area in the Pyrenees.
Although I should admit that I liked better skiing in the nearest Baqueira Beret (Catalonia/Spain), mainly because it felt less crowded than Andorra. In my experience, there were more international travelers and first-time skiers on the slopes of Andorra, while Baquiera got a fair share of the Spaniards. For some reason I felt like most of the people on the slopes of Baqueira were clearly non-beginners. Also, there were almost no lines to take the lifts in Baqueira, unlike Andorra (even though my trip was in January, which was supposed to be the peak season).
Again, this is my personal experience. Let me highlight that I still enjoyed skiing in both Grandvalira and Baqueira. Both rank globally among the world’s top ski destinations. According to the experts, Andorra´s Grandvalira wins over Baqueira Beret based on international ski standards. So skiing is still an absolute must-try for all the fans of winter sports.
No Andorra Travel guide could skip the topic of shopping. In Andorra, you can shop till you drop. The country is known for its low taxes, you can find anything from high-end brands to low-tax deals. Av. Meritxell, c.Bonaventura, and av.Carlemany – are the main shopping streets of Andorra La Vella.
While in the shopping malls, close to the Spanish border, you can spot lots of Spaniards crossing the border over to fill in the tank or shop for weekly/monthly groceries, the concept of budget shopping in Andorra lately feels a bit questionable for me. Even though Andorra is known for the lowest taxes in Europe.
Why? – Firstly, these days you can often find better deals online. Secondly, the capital of Andorra La Vella is full of multinational brand stores, that you can literally find at the same price anywhere else. Thirdly, as Andorra attracts more international visitors every year – prices in the stores at the city center often match those of the most touristy streets in Europe. So, I honestly doubt that you’ll save a lot during shopping in Andorra. I have an impression that nowadays people purchase things in Andorra to splurge out on a trip, or because of the vibe.
With things like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tech stuff you have a price difference with Spain, due to the absence of VAT tax. Although, in order to get some significant savings from your purchase (not to mention the cost of staying and living in Andorra nowadays, which already makes it all pointless) – you’d need to buy a lot. But there are customs limits on the value and number of these products to avoid illegal trade. Plus, generally, you can take products out of the country up to a value limit of 900 euros without having to pay customs duties.
So, shopping in Andorra for the sake of experience – yes, but saving a lot on it – I doubt it.
Also, there are a few shopping events you can enjoy in Andorra during the whole year – Noche de Compras, Noche de Vivand, Gran Mercado de las Oportunidades, De Copes, Vide Dressing La Massana, and the Andorra Shopping Festival.
While I have always visited Andorra during the winter months, testing local hikes is still in the plans. The main natural areas to explore are Comapedrosa Nature Reserve, Sorteny Valley Nature Reserve, Incles Valley, Enclar Valley, and Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley.
If you want to experience some nice views of Andorra la Vella you should consider the Rec Sola hiking route. Another popular trail is Coronallacs. It is divided into 5 stages (from 13 to 22 km each) where you get to sleep in high-mountain shelters and will be awarded with a certificate from the Andorra Ministry of Tourism upon completion. Due to its unique location, Andorra has a few cross-border trails, like El Camino del Reencuentro, Ruta Capcir – Andorra La Vella – Alt Urgell.
Also read: The Most Beautiful Gardens in Spain
If you enjoy nature tourism, simply download the Turisme Actiu Andorra app for more trails, maps, and GPS tracking.
Also, don’t miss Mirador Roc del Quer – a scenic viewpoint in Andorra with floor fragments made of transparent glass.
With such a spectacular natural setting and plenty of active sports, Andorra is a trendy wellness destination. It feels so enjoyable to soak in after a day full of winter activities. Many of the Andorra hotels house their own private spa centers.
Also, one of the popular things to do in Andorra is to visit its Caldea Spa, the largest spa in Southern Europe. The Complex has a family-friendly area and the adults-only Inúu Spa section. I have mixed feelings about Caldea Spa though, as it gets so crowded in winter that it sometimes feels more like a water park, rather than a relaxing Spa Center. Nevertheless, I have listed it as one of the romantic things to do in Andorra after my recent trip. Mainly because we got an early 9 am entrance and were able to enjoy the place to the fullest with no crowds around. You can check my Andorra IG Stories to get a glimpse of the outdoor pool with panoramic views.
6. Activities for non-skiers
If you want to enrich your trip with some adrenaline-pumping activities Andorra got you covered here as well. Top things to do in Andorra if you’re not into skiing:
- go dog sledding in Port d’ Envalira
- fly over the ice in a snowmobiling
- snowtubing, Magic Gliss in Grandvalira
- ice skating at Palau de Gel d´Andorra
- cross-country skiing, Tobotronc and other wither adventures in Naturlandia Amusement Park
- Andorra´s Christmas village in December
- Taking a cable car to Funicamp station to enjoy the views
No Andorra Travel Guide could miss the topic of sightseeing. Andorra is full of Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque Art, mainly displayed via its forty Romanesque churches. If you love exploring local museums, consider getting PassMuseu for 2,5 euros which allows you a 50% discount on the admission price for the 3 museums of your choice. Bus Touristic Andorra offers different bus itineraries with a guide onboard.
Also read: 2022 Favorite Travel Experiences in Spain
Depending on your travel dates, you might consider visiting a few popular events in Andorra: Colores de Musica de Escalades-Engordany, Fallaires de San Juan, Sax Fest, Jambo Street Music, Cirque du Soleil, Meritxell Day (the patron Saint of Andorra).
To cover fully the food topic there should be a separate Andorra travel guide written on the local gastronomy. Andorra’s cuisine combines French and Catalan influences.
A must-experience is to have a dinner in la borda. La borda was once an annex of many local high mountain houses, where the grass and cattle were kept. Nowadays, Andorra has at least 20 restored bordas turned into beautiful restaurants. They are the best to enjoy the local vibe and try traditional foods.
Also read: Traditional Spanish Food in Local Villages
The most typical dishes not to miss: escudella stew, Andorra’s sausages (donja, bringuera, bull, or bisbe), trinxat ( made with potatoes, green cabbage, bacon, and garlic), rice with mushrooms or arroz a la montaña, river trout, cannelloni, Crema Andorrana, snails Cargols a la lluna, Galtes de Porc, Amanida de Xicoira.
But I’d add to this list a cheese fondue, as this is one of my personal must-haves in Andorra. Save this IG post for the list of typical Andorran dishes.
Also, on the Spanish forums, people warn you against drinking tap water in Andorra. But as I always drink bottled water on the road – can not share my experience on this one.
- Accommodation: For short stays, I usually book via Agoda, Booking, and Hotellook
- Tours&excursions: My favorites for guided tours are GetYourGuide and Viator
- City breaks&sightseeing: Go City helps to avoid multiple entry fees and paper tickets
- Travel Insurance: find the best trip insurance plans via VisitorsCoverage, EKTA, and Insubuy
- Flights: To find the best deals I like WayAway and Aviasales
- Airport Lounge: Get independent airport lounge access worldwide via Priority Pass
- Train&bus tickets: Currently, I book via RailEurope, Omio, and Busbud
- Car rental: To find the best deals I use Rental Cars, Discover Cars, and GetRentalCar
- Transfers: For individual transfer services I like Kiwitaxi
- For Foodies: Eatwith is great for finding culinary experiences with locals
- Cruise Reviews: To find the best cruise offer I check out Cruise Critic
- Suitcases&Luggage: To eliminate problems of early arrivals/late departures I find helpful Radical Storage
- Compensation for delayed/canceled flights: AirHelp is useful for all flight cancellation or delay claims
- To avoid roaming fees I use Airalo eSIMs around the world
- Budget-friendly stays: Check Hostelworld to find the best deals around the world
- Events: To find the best offers I use Ticketmaster and TicketNetwork
- Renting Bikes: to find motorcycles, scooters, quads, and bicycles I use BikesBooking
- Package Tours: head to CheapOair, Expedia UK, Tourhub, and loveholidays
- For Bloggers: To monetize my blog I use Travelpayouts