Andorra is a small, mountainous country in Western Europe, located up in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Full of beautiful mountains and charming old villages, the country thrives on tourism, mainly visitors from nearby countries who come for shopping, skiing, hiking, and banking.
- — capital of Andorra
- — south of Andorra La Vella towards the border with Spain
- — south of Santa Coloma towards the border with Spain
- — this is really an eastern suburb parish of Andorra La Vella
- — parish to the NE of Andorra La Vella between Engordany and Canillo on the road to France
- — small town and parish about 5 miles north of Andorra La Vella. You can access Arinsal - Pal ski area from it directly
- — northernmost and least populated parish but almost the largest by area
- — northeasternmost parish on the main road and border to France
- — small village in the north west
- — a town bordering with France
HistoryFor 715 years, from 1278 to 1994, Andorrans lived under a unique co-principality ruled by the French head of state and the Spanish bishop of Urgell. In 1993, this feudal system was modified with the titular heads of state retained, but the government transformed into a parliamentary democracy. The French claim goes back to the Counts of Foix, whose claim passed to the Kings of Navarre, which came to be French kings in the 16th century. France abandoned the claim during the First Republic, but has continually exercised the position since the days of Napoleon, even under Republican governments. Long isolated and impoverished, mountainous Andorra achieved considerable prosperity since World War II through its tourist industry. Many migrant workers (legal and illegal) are attracted to the thriving economy with its lack of income taxes.
EconomyTourism, the mainstay of Andorra's tiny, well-to-do economy, accounts for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts. Andorra's comparative advantage has eroded as the economies of neighbouring France and Spain have been opened up, providing broader availability of goods and lower tariffs. The banking sector, with its "tax haven" status, also contributes substantially to the economy. Agricultural production is limited—only 2% of the land is arable—and most food has to be imported. The principal livestock activity is sheep raising. Manufacturing output consists mainly of cigarettes, cigars, and furniture. Andorra is a member of the EU Customs Union and is treated as an EU member for trade in manufactured goods (no tariffs) and as a non-EU member for agricultural products.
ElectricityElectricity is supplied at 220 to 230 V 50 Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types.
Andorra doesn't require a visa from any visitors, but because the country can only be entered from Spain or France, you'll need to enter the Schengen Area first in order to get to Andorra. See the Schengen Area entry requirements.
Visitors from outside the EU should note that Andorra is not a Schengen member, and exiting France or Spain into Andorra would theoretically terminate a single-entry visa. In practice, though, immigration does not enforce this.
By planeThere are no airports in Andorra. The nearest airport is
La Seu d'Urgell AirportThe airport, owned by the Government of Catalonia, has occasional charter flights.
The nearest larger airports are:
Perpignan (PGF) (France) to the east, no coach connections but you can take a Yellow train to La tour de Carol and further to l'Hospitalet.
Toulouse–Blagnac (TLS) (France) to the north. You can pre book a coach or a taxi from Toulouse Airport to all the resorts in Andorra with Sea-Lifts.
Barcelona El Prat (BCN) (Spain) to the south.
By helicopterTo Andorra la Vella, La Massana or Arinsal heliports, the journey from airports in Toulouse or Barcelona for a maximum of 5 passengers, takes less than an hour and costs .
See the Heliand website for more information.
By trainAndorra is the only sovereign non-island state in Europe to have never had a railway. The railway of fellow microstate San Marino was destroyed in World War II and the railway in Vatican City is only ever used very rarely, when the Pope wishes to use it. Monaco has a fairly major station for such a small state and all other continental European states have rail networks of considerable size.
While there are no train lines or stations in Andorra, stations near the border can be accessed easily from Barcelona, Perpignan and Toulouse. There's also a direct sleeper to Paris.
Gare d'Andorre-L'HospitaletDespite its name, this station is not on the territory of Andorra, but rather in neighboring France, some from the border. Six trains per run day to Toulouse-Matabiau (2½ hr, ). There are regular buses onward to Andorra but it's unclear when. The last bus seems to leave at 19:45 so if the train arrives after that, you're stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Gare de Latour-de-Carol-EnveitgThis station is in France but close to the Spanish border. It is the terminus of three rail lines: suburban R3 line from Barcelona-Sants (4 daily, 3 hr, ); the line from Toulouse (6 daily, 3 hr, ) which runs via L'Hospitalet (30 min); and a narrow-gauge line from Perpignan (2 M-F, 3 weekends, 4–5 hr, ) (change at Villefranche Vernet les Bains). Buses also connect Latour-de-Carol with L'Hospitalet.
As of 2017, the French Intercité de Nuit still serves both stations, but the network has been curtailed severely and this service could be axed in the foreseeable future, too. As with most long distance trains, early booking can net you very good deals indeed.
The French railway company, SNCF, used to operate one bus per day (TER Midi-Pyrénée, dep 09.35, 26 min, , SNCF discounts apply) from the train station of L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre (also called Andorre-L'Hospitalet-SNCF or L'Hospitalet) to the first town after the Andorran border, the supposed shoppers' paradise of Pas de la Casa, from where it's possible to take frequent buses to Andorra-la-Vella () — every 30 min with Cooperativa Interurbana (+376 806 556, line 4) or cia Hispano-Andorrana (+376 807 000,). Check!
Hispano-Andorrana bus company runs services twice a day from the L'Hospitalet train station directly to Andorra-la-Vella, also calling at some other stops, for about .
From France, getting to Andorra by train and onward bus costs around the same as the direct bus. It is very cost-effective for holders of SNCF discount cards such as Carte 12-25 or those coming with the sleeper train from Paris. Anyone under 26 years-old traveling at off-peak hours with SNCF is entitled a 25% discount (called "Découvert 12-25").
From Barcelona, the train-bus combination is much cheaper than the direct bus; however, it requires two changes: one in Latour de Carol and one in L'Hospitalet.
Caution: L'Hospitalet train station is in a deserted area, is often unmanned, and its rooms have restricted open hours, so in winter it's important to match connections well. If you need assistance, you may want to call the Toulouse train station at +33 8 91 67 76 77.
Also beware of black ice and snow drifts as the temperature in Andorra can be much colder than at sea level. Be sure your car is in good condition.
The approach from the French side passes through the 2.9 km-long Tunel d'Envalira which requires a credit or debit card for payment of the fee. The amounts are: winter (remainder of year)
- Cars ()
- Others ()
Occasionally the road through to France can be closed in winter due to heavy snowfall and avalanche risk. Keep in mind that weather and road conditions may be very different on the northern slope of the Pas de la Casa than to the south.
Car rental The usual car hire companies operate from locations such as 'downtown'; the desks are sometimes quiet and unmanned so it may be a good idea to book in advance on-line, your rates should still be good value.
- From November to April, it is necessary to have winter tyres and/or snow chains to hand in the car. In snowy road conditions, cars without winter tyres or snow chains fitted are not allowed to drive. This is often enforced by police checkpoints on access roads to the ski resorts and on mountain passes such as the CS-311 and the road above Pas de la Casa.
Drivers considered to be at fault in fatal accidents are always prosecuted and usually imprisoned.
Taxi Taxi Josep provides a Mercedes Benz car and speaks many languages Tel: 376 323111; Taxi Domènec Segura provides a van but does not speak English or French tel: +34 636 490 685. Taxi Josep can arrange the ride with Taxi Domènec Segura if you absolutely need a van. Payment must be in cash.
Taxi Barras +376 323743 provides local service.
By busThe government of Andorra provides Mobilitat.ad, a website that gives an overview of bus routes into and within Andorra, though it is only in Catalan.
Many coach routes serve Andorra, particularly from Spain, mainly Barcelona but also Girona, Madrid, Malaga, Lleida and Valencia.
Andbus (previously known as Novatel) runs from Toulouse's Matabiau bus station and Toulouse–Blagnac airport (both 3 hr, ). The stop at Toulouse airport is outside Arrivals, Hall B in front of door B.
Other coach services operate via the French border towns L'Hospitalet (3 km from Andorra) and Latour-de-Carol (Spanish: La Tor de Querol, near the Spanish border, 20 km from Andorra). It is not recommended to take a train from Toulouse or Latour-de-Carol and connect to the public bus at the Gare d'Andorre-L'Hospitallet train station in the morning because the bus departs half an hour before the first SNCF train arrives at this station. The only suitable train-bus connection is the daily train from Toulouse that arrives at Gare d'Andorre-L'Hospitallet at 19:21 and the bus departs at 19:45. This bus service is catered towards Andorrans departing for France or Spain and connect to those trains towards Toulouse and Latour-de-Carol. An alternative option from the Gare d'Andorre-L'Hospitallet train station is to take a taxi to Pas de la Casa (~).
From SpainThe trip from Barcelona takes 3hr 15min to 4hr, depending on the number of stops.
Novatel also connects Andorra to Barcelona's airport (); and Girona's bus station and airport (both around 3hr 30min, ).
Eurolines runs from Barcelona airport (outside the door of Terminal B), via Barcelona Sants train station to Andorra. Arrive early as the driver doesn't hang around and may leave early. You pay for the ticket at Sants, not the airport. You will need to show your passport.
Autocars Nadal also travels between Andorra and Barcelona and its airport.
Alsina Graells has eight trips a day from Barcelona ( one-way and round-trip).
ALSA has daily trips between Barcelona and Andorra.
There are 8 main bus lines or 'línies', and all of these pass through Andorra La Vella. The fare is between to one-way depending on how far you are going. Drivers provide change. For the towns nearest to Andorra La Vella, the service is very regular, and as frequent as every 10 minutes during the day. If you are travelling to outlying rural places like Canolic, there are only 2 or 3 buses per day.
The lines are:
- L1 Sant Julia de Loria - Andorra la Vella / Escaldes-Engordany
- L2 Andorra la Vella - Encamp
- L3 Andorra la Vella - Encamp - Soldeu
- L4 Andorra la Vella - Encamp - Soldeu - Pas de la Casa
- L5 Andorra la Vella - La Massana - Arinsal
- L6 Andorra la Vella - La Massana - Ordino
- E (express) Sant Julia de Loria - Andorra la Vella/Escaldes-Engordany
There are also three night bus lines with sparse intervals:
- Bn1 Andorra la Vella - Sant Julia de Loria (every 60 min)
- Bn2 Canillo - Andorra la Vella - Canillo (every 120 min)
- Bn3 Ordino - Arsinal - Andorra la Vella - Ordino (every 90 min)
ShoppingAndorra La Vella is a tax haven and thus typical duty free shopping goods, such as perfumes, cigarettes and alcohol, are popular purchases. On any given day the capital will have lots of people from Spain and France who've driven up for a shopping trip.
Threatened by seemingly unchecked development, the country's main draw is still its magnificent mountainous landscapes, offering spectacular vistas in every season. At these heights, summers are cool, making for excellent hiking conditions through the romantic green valleys. Challenging day long hikes can be had on even higher grounds, and will take you through truly memorable scenery. Don't overlook the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, Andorra's only UNESCO World Heritage site. Only reachable on foot, this undeveloped area is an important wildlife sanctuary and consists of forest and fields, dotted with the odd shepherd's hut. In winter, snow covers large parts of the country, changing the Alpine character into an equally beautiful stage for various winter sports.
Yet, there is more to this tiny country. There are a number of lovely historic villages, home to centuries old houses and medieval Romanesque churches and shrines along cobblestoned streets. Good places to sample some culture are Ordino, Santa Coloma d'Andorra (home to the oldest building in the country, a 9th-century church) and Sant Julia de Loria. In between the village of Canillo and Encamp stands the shrine of the country's patroness, Our Lady of Meritxell. A 1972 fire ruined the original statue, but the excellent replica makes a fine stand-in. Les Escaldes is a good place to witness some traditional dance.
The country's capital, Andorra la Vella, may seem like a traffic- and shop-heavy place at first - and indeed it is. Look a little deeper, however, and you'll find the 11th-century Església de Sant Esteve, a Romanesque church dedicated to St. Stephen. A nice piazza and the historic parliament building make for other highlights in your city explorations.
Ski resortsMost of these resorts were once small mountain villages which have grown due to skiing. The resorts have joined together so that your ski pass covers neighbouring areas. As a result there are now two large alpine skiing areas known as Vallnord and Grandvalira.
Vallnord covers Arcalis and the Arinsal-Pal ski area. Arcalis is quite distant away from Arinsal-Pal but the latter have been joined up by a cable car connecting the two ski areas. The Arisnal-Pal ski area is directly accessible from La Massana right from the middle of the town. 93 km (58 mi) of trails.
Grandvalira covers Soldeu and Pas de la Casa. The Soldeu ski area is also accessible from Encamp and Canillo. This quite cleverly has opened up these areas to cope with the influence of visitors without putting all the strain on Soldeu. It has 193 km of ski slopes between 1710–2640 m. The surface of grandvalira is about 1.926 H, and it's divided into 6 different areas:
- Pas de la Casa—skiing resort right on the French border.
- Soldeu—skiing resort
- Arcalis—ski area at the head of the valley from El Serrat
- Arinsal—skiing resort part of the Arinsal Pal ski area. Also known as Vallnord which means Valley North in English
- Pal—skiing resort part of the Arinsal Pal ski area.
- Arinsal-Pal which is two skiing areas connected by cable car. See Arinsal and Pal.
La Rabassa is a cross-country (Nordic) skiing area in southern Andorra above the town of Sant Julia de Loria.
Hiking and trekkingIf you would like more information on the mountain huts in Andorra, go to this site. Be sure to bring something other than sandals for your feet and a purse for your cellphone.
Andorra is a great place for hiking. The point of departure is the town of Arinsal at the foot of the Coma Pedrosa (2,942 m/9,652 ft) and the Pic de Médécourbe (2,914 m/9,560 ft).
- Treks from Arinsal (1,500 m) - Pic de Sanfons (2,888 m/9,475 ft, 4hr 45min, climb 1,310 m/4,298 ft, medium until the hut, difficult on the ridge). View on the Coma Pedrosa, the valley of Tor, the lakes of Baiau in Spain as well as on the Pallars mountains. Mountain hut and lake on the way. Parking at Torrent Ribal 1,580 m (5,184 ft).
- Pic de Médécourbe 2,914 m (4hr 30min, climb 1,335 m/4,380 ft, medium until the hut increasing to difficult on the ridge). A classic! Mountain hut half-way up, lakes and a breathtaking view over the valley of Arinsal, Boet and Vicdessos (France). Parking at Torrent Ribal 1,580 m (5,184 ft). The peak is the western tripoint international boundary of Andorra, France, and Spain.
- Pic de Coma Pedrosa 2,942 m (4hr 30min, climb 1,370 m, medium until the lake, difficult on the ridge). The highest mountain in Andorra. Mountain hut half way up, lakes. Beautiful view of the surrounding summits, the valley of Arinsal and to the West, the Maladeta and Ecantats massifs. Parking at Torrent Ribal 1580 m.
- Montmantell lakes and the Pic del Pla de l'Estany 2,859 m (4hr 20min, climb 1,280 m, medium). Mountain hut half-way up, lakes, magnificent view over the Ariège mountains in France and over Andorra. Parking at Torrent Ribal 1580 m.
- Arinsal - Percanela - les Fonts - Pla de l'Estany - Arinsal circuit 2,055 m (4hr 30min, climb 670 m, medium) 2 mountain huts. Very pleasant circuit which one can do either way. Lovely views of Coma Pedrosa via the imposing natural amphitheatre of Les Fonts. A few bordas (farm houses) on the way, some renovated, some in ruins. Parking at Arinsal 1,466 m.
- Camí del coll de les Cases 1,950 m (1hr 40min, climb 490 m, medium) Panoramic view over the Ordino mountains and la Massana. Ideal picnic and meditation site. You can continue along the GR11 to Arans (parking at Mas de Ribafeta 1466 m) but transport back to Arinsal must be provided.
SpaIn Andorra La Vella there is the famous Caldea to visit which is a spa/swimming pool complex. This is very popular. It is at the top end of Andorra-la-Vella and you cannot miss it because it is the large glass spire structure which is quite an attraction on the skyline itself.
WineThe main Andorran grape varietal is pinot noir.
Alpha BreweryThe country's only brewery that makes a couple different styles of beer is not sold in most stores. Small gift shops and our tourist-centric businesses may have some.
Drivers are warned to avoid crossing back into France if the Spanish side of the Pyrenees has enjoyed beautiful warm sunshine all day and the road temperatures drop considerably towards the evening - there is danger of black ice from ice melt. The weather in the French Pyrenees is frequently vastly different than that of Andorra and the Spanish Pyrenees. Stay overnight if necessary, as cold morning temperatures are more apparent and less treacherous than sudden evening icing. Driving can become dangerous especially in winter if you don't obey the speed limits or traffic signs due to its narrow roads, sharp turns and mountainous terrains. From November 1 to May 15, drivers are legally required to have winter tires or snow chains installed. Otherwise you will be fined by the police.
Tap water is drinkable, though if you're coming from far away it's possible the local microbes and minerals may upset your stomach at first. As in many places, bottled water is safest.
Cellular serviceAndorra's telecom providers are not part of the EU roaming zone so turn off your cell phone if you want to avoid hefty roaming charges, unless your plan allows you to roam in Andorra. If you wish to purchase a local SIM for use during your time in Andorra, Andorra Telecom sells SIMs for €15 with €15 credit preloaded. This is enough to purchase 1.5 GB of data.
InternetAndorra is a well-connected country and has accepted the Internet with open arms. Almost as many people subscribe to the Internet as landline phones. Free public WiFi is available in parts of major towns, and many restaurants have WiFi as well.
The French post office (Correus francesos) is at Carrer de Bonaventura Armengol is usually open M-F 08:30-14:30, Sa 09:00-11:59 Tel: +376 820 408
The Spanish post office (Correus espanyols) is open M-F 08:30-14:30, Sa 09:00-12:59 Tel: +376 820 257.
- Latour-de-Carol - first stop on the scenic descent for Perpignan with the open-top Yellow train (fr: Le train jaune) is reachable with the same TER train line 22 that serves L'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre.