Andorra Holiday Planning Guide
Andorra's wild popularity among tourists can be attributed to its gently sloped ski resorts, extensive hiking trails, and duty-free shopping. The skyline features the ubiquitous outline of the rugged Pyrenees mountain range, with average elevations of 1,996 m (6,549 ft). Find tranquillity and relaxation at altitudes of 1,000 m (3,281 ft) at the well-known Caldea Spa Complex, distinguished by its elegant glass spires. If you prefer a little retail therapy during your Andorra holiday, try the duty-free shopping in the capital city Andorra la Vella's bustling avenues. Sightseeing includes Romanesque churches, shrines, and historical houses, including a replica of the famous statue of Our Lady of Meritxell, which was destroyed in a 1972 fire. Andorra's Catalan culture, including folk dances and music, is very much alive today in the town of Sant Julià de Lòria.
Places to Visit in Andorra
Regions of AndorraAndorra la Vella Parish
: Located high in the Pyrenees mountains, this alpine vacation spot is dotted with beautiful 11th-century stone architecture, including the Església de Sant Esteve church, while a few structures even date as far back as the 9th century. Other attractions include renowned ski resorts that offer thrilling winter courses and stunning panoramic views of the valley of Andorra.Escaldes-Engordany Parish
: Developed in the mid-1900s, Escaldes-Engordany Parish is known for its granite Romanesque architecture dating from the 12th century, including a bell tower. Andorra tours highlighting the economy, society, politics, and culture of the area through the 19th and 20th centuries are popular as well.
Cities in AndorraAndorra la Vella
: This city among the clouds in the Pyrenees mountains is surprisingly full of Andorra tourist attractions, shopping centers, and ancient architecture. Among its most famous spots are the world-class ski slopes, which attract visitors from all over the world to stay in the beautiful ski resorts. Escaldes-Engordany
: If your Andorra itinerary has left you with travel-worn feet or muscles sore from the slopes, head to Les Escaldes to relax in the city's collection of hot springs. Even in ancient Roman times, these thermal springs were treasured for their highly sulphurous and nitrogenous waters, believed to have curative properties.
Things to Do in Andorra
Popular Andorra Tourist AttractionsCentre Termolúdic Caldea
: A popular Andorra vacation spot, Europe's largest health spa boasts a long list of facilities like therapeutic thermal waters, indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, whirlpool tubs, Indo-Roman baths, and a range of beauty and health services.Grandvalira Ski Resort
: In addition to ski, snowboard, sled, and snowshoe trails, this world-class resort also offers plenty of thrilling things to do for the adventure-seeker, like parachute jumping, helicopter flights, and mushing.Vallnord Pal-Arinsal
: A popular stop on Andorra itineraries, this ski area offers runs for every skill level, from complete beginner to daring expert, as well as other activities like sledding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.Naturlandia
: This mountainside park is filled with activities for the whole family, including an animal park, mini golf, paintball, playgrounds, the largest alpine roller coaster in the world, and Airtrekk, a three-level obstacle course.Soldeu - El Tarter
: Filled with colorful bar and restaurant choices, this village makes a great location to spend an evening watching street performances and dining, while by day you can choose from hiking and skiing options.Casa de la Vall
: Built in 1580, the former parliament headquarters and Catalan-style home features the region's 14th-century coat-of-arms as well as a watchtower, baptismal pyre, and commemorative statues.Tobotronc
: At this Andorra attraction, take an exciting ride on a two-seater sled (the longest alpine sled in the world) through La Rabassa forest.C.S. Santa Coloma
: Built in the 12th century, this pre-Romanesque structure is decorated with beautiful mural paintings and features a four-level bell tower and a bust of Our Ladies of Remedies.Sant Esteve d'Andorra la Vella
: Visitors flock to see the Romanesque murals and stained-glass windows in this 12th-century building, a parish church with two Baroque altarpieces and a bell tower.
Planning an Andorra Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Andorra with Kids
You'll find plenty of family-friendly Andorra tourist attractions, especially if your kids enjoy the outdoors and have lots of energy. The most obvious places to visit may be the ski resorts, most of which offer classes for beginners and children along with easygoing slopes. Grandvalira Ski Resort
is an obvious choice for this kind of wintery adventure due to the wide range of pistes and additional activities like snowshoeing. Another Andorra vacation idea is to go hiking, which best allows you to admire the country's stunning mountainous environment. Try Soldeu - El Tarter
, a village with delicious food and a cable car leading out of the city center into the mountains. Also keep an eye out for the local performing acts around town: kids might get a kick out of magic, dance, or musical performances. If you're tired of the countryside and want a bit of pampering, take the kids to Andorra la Vella
, a city full of shopping centers and cinemas.
Things to Do in Andorra with Kids
Young travelers have plenty of options on an Andorra trip. Among the most popular attractions is Naturlandia
, a veritable paradise for adventure-lovers and families alike. This theme park allows visitors to practice their aim on the archery range, ride four-wheelers around the hillsides, duck and dive in a paintball war, ride the world's largest alpine roller coaster, and spot bears, wolves, and more at the animal park. At Tobotronc
, be sure to wear goggles and warm clothing to ride the world's longest alpine slide, where you'll speed through the La Rabassa forest. Also check out Siscaro Lakes for great treks, or head to Cortals Valley for mountain biking instead. Do a bit of sightseeing in Andorra by introducing the kids to ancient Roman ruins and structures like the Santuario de Meritxell
, an old sanctuary boasting freestanding arches, a glass roof, and an Andorran Roman Catholic statue depicting the apparition of the Virgin Mary that dates back to the late 12th century.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Andorra
Your children will love the outdoor adventures available on your Andorra holiday, but keep in mind that temperatures drop fairly low in the mountains, so be sure to pack plenty of warm and durable clothing for the whole family, including waterproof footwear and gloves. Also, if you want to be pampered but feel like you can't include a spa in your plan, think again. Many spas offer kid-friendly spaces with pools and slides, while parents can enjoy a massage or sauna.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Andorra
Cuisine of Andorra
While bread is a staple among Andorran locals, you will also find lamb is the main meat in restaurants during your Andorra vacation. The country's people are mostly ethnic Catalans, so Catalan cuisine has strongly influenced the food, so you'll see some ingredients not native to the land, like certain fish and produce. Nevertheless, travelers will also find some similarity to French and Spanish dishes, and food doesn't differ wildly from region to region due to the country's small size.
Shopping in Andorra
Andorra offers great shopping opportunities and you can enjoy very low taxation and products from all around the world. Consider including Andorra la Vella
on your Andorra itinerary to take advantage of this hot spot for high-fashion brand names, electronics, photography, sports equipment, and more. This city also hosts several colorful festivals including the Fair of Andorra la Vella every October, when locals celebrate tourism and leisure companies as well as showcases for sports enthusiasts.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Andorra
History of Andorra
Andorra's history stretches back to ancient times, when the country was part of the Roman Empire. While there is little documented during this period, locals will tell you how the Romans flocked to the thermal springs of Caldea (you can follow in their footsteps with a visit to Centre Termolúdic Caldea
during your Andorra sightseeing). Though it was something of a spa town during Roman times, when the empire fell, Andorra transformed into a gateway for the northern barbarian tribes to pass from Gaul into the provinces of Iberia.
History picks up again when Charlemagne granted Andorra a charter in return for defending Christian France against the invasion of Muslim Moors. However, in the 11th century a dispute arose between the bishop of Spain and a Count of France over ownership of the country. By 1278, the matter was solved peacefully with a treaty stating sovereignty would be shared by the two. As centuries passed, sovereignty passed between the two countries until Henry IV of France established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgel as co-princes of Andorra in 1607.
Due to its small and secluded characteristics, Andorra has remained uninvolved in much of mainstream European events. In fact, the country has not seen war in over 1,000 years. Although it waged war on Germany during World War I, it never actually sent troops to fight. While military monuments lack, there are plenty of places to see in Andorra, including beautiful stone structures from the 11th and 12th centuries like C.S. Santa Coloma
and Sant Esteve d'Andorra la Vella
Customs of Andorra
When greeting the locals, a brief handshake is usually your best bet, while kisses on the cheek are reserved for close female friends. Many men use a two-handed shake where the left hand is placed on the right forearm of the other person. If invited to someone's home during your Andorra holiday, it is customary to take a small gift such as chocolates, pastries, wine, or flowers, but don't sit down until invited if eating out with a group. During formal meals, try to keep your hands visible when eating but also keep your elbows off the table.
Holidays & Festivals in Andorra
Because Andorra is primarily Roman Catholic, many of the religious holidays are Catholic holidays. However, one of the most celebrated times is National Day on September 8, also called Our Lady of Meritxell Day, when locals often eat grilled lamb and spend the night dancing. Stick around after nightfall to see an impressive fireworks display. Music is also very important in Andorra, and several music festivals are held throughout the year, like the International Jazz Festival held each year in July.
Andorra Travel Tips
Climate of Andorra
It's not hard to plan your tour of Andorra around the country's mild weather. Visitors might want to carry a cardigan in the summer or don longjohns in the winter, but extreme temperatures aren't common. If your Andorra itinerary includes a trip to the mountains, keep in mind that the temperature drops at higher altitudes.
Transportation in Andorra
While there is no railway in this small country, getting around between Andorra tourist attractions is easy with the variety of buses and minibuses linking villages together. Look for the two regular lines connecting the parishes, and after boarding, you can buy your ticket on the bus. If you prefer to rent a vehicle and drive yourself, keep in mind all traffic drives on the right.
Language of Andorra
Catalan is the official language of Andorra, and all natives are taught Catalan in schools to use in daily life, including on road signs. If you happen to speak French or Spanish, however, your Andorra trip will come a little easier. Spanish is dominant among tourists and merchants who visit from Spain, while French is usually limited to the southwest of the country.
Tipping in Andorra
Although a service charge is typically added to restaurant bills, customers are expected to plunk down an additional 10-percent tip. Tips for taxi drivers, bellhops, movie ushers, and washroom attendants are also expected.