Highest Capital City in Europe
We could not resist the temptation of being able to step into another country, which as of MArch 2014 it marks the 60th I’ve been so far in my life; making it alone the 40th out of the 50 that forms the European Continent. It was of course a pre-planned trip. Either flying to Barcelona or Toulouse; but with so many times been to Barcelona, Toulouse had the best chances as being a city we’ve also never been before. Now that’s the perfect weekend, two for one.
Coming to Andorra is not easy by plane. There are no commercial airports to begin with, being the nearest one Perpignan some 130 kilometres to the east in France; and that’s a lengthy drive since there are no motorways connecting directly with Andorra, but instead smaller roads with many bends and ports to pass. Then farther away as was in our case, you have at almost 200 kilometres away the much bigger Toulouse airport.
Whichever the choice, bearing the long and at points stressful drive, it was very worth in every minute. Not because of Andorra la Vella itself, but for the incredible landscapes and nature you will be driving through. From pure spring to the deepest of the winter. Right before arriving to the border, the snowy mountains were everywhere, but out of sudden, few kilometres after the border and some hundreds of meters higher, it was heavily snowing!
We though we could not continue any further but the road was luckily fine, only heavy snow from time to time, and dozens of sky resorts fully operational at both sides of the road. Hundreds of people and buses coming and going to the resorts on and on. For being late March was quite a surprise to suddenly come back to winter wonderland.
You have the choice of taking a tunnel or passing the port. We did chose the port and was a really good decision for the even better landscapes and views we got, and even with snow, it was quite easy to drive. Then after this last port, is all the way down towards the capital passing by beautiful Medieval villages. You will have many chances to stop along the road for taking pictures. There are many viewing areas and points of interest.
Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe with it’s capital the highest city in Europe and of course one of the best and most popular ski resorts in Europe. The people of Andorra have the 3rd highest human life expectancy in the world at 84 years! Not to mention they benefit form a much wealthier life than neighbouring Spain or France. The state is not member of the European Union but has customs arrangement with the European Union and uses the euro. It is also a fiscal paradise where many banks and businesses thrive from its tax haven status.
One day is more than enough to fully explore the city and the villages along the way, although for the capital city with little over 2 hours you are really done. It was extremely disappointing where you can count the sights with the fingers of both hands no more. The good point, the rest of the country is wonderful on all corners.
For more information about Andorra la Vella visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Andorra’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Andorra la Vella
- Church of Sant Esteve Is one of the oldest churches in the city dating from the 11th century in Romanesque style and one of the principal sights.
- Church of Sant Andreu Another Romanesque church dating from the 12th century.
- Casa de la Vall Is the Parliament of Andorra. A beautiful stone building from the 16th century. Free guided tours are available to visit the interiors. The times (taken from Wikitravel) are Monday to Saturday between 09:30-13:00 & 15:00-19:00, Sundays 10:00-14:00.
- Town Square Offers great views over the Valley of Andorra. Is the main square in the city.
- Old Town streets The old town is very small but charming. Small cobblestone streets and stone buildings up and down the hills.
- Pathways particularly two of them offers incredible scenery of the valley of Andorra la Vella, the mountains and the nature surrounding it. Both are paved and are lit at night.
-Rec del Solà The starting point is at Collegi Sant Ermengol Road.
-Rec de l’Obac Starting point at Tarragona Avenue.
- Bridge of la Margineda Dating from the medieval times. Not right by the city centre but not far from it especially if you have a car to move around.
- Caldea Is a spa, sauna and swimming pool complex located on the upper part of the town. It’s the characteristic glass building. If you have the time, do not hesitate in spending some time here, it is an impressive place.
Other places of interest along the way
- Pas de la Casa Is the port right after the border. The best way is to cross it through the road and not the tunnel. The views are spectacular from here but be careful with the weather. If it is heavily snowing then take the tunnel, and also bear in mind in weather conditions are really bad, the border might close, meaning you will have to make a huge loop through Spain in order to reach back France (if that is from where you are coming to Andorra for visiting). It has one of the highest roads in Europe and the only watershed of the Pyrenees where the water drains into the Atlantic.
- Soldeu Where the principal ski pistes and resorts in the country are. You will pass by incredible beautiful designed hotels and resorts and landscapes. No need to say that if you are looking for ski this is one of the finest in Europe. You have too much selection to choose.
- Sant Joan de Caselles Famous for the 11th century church on the hill, a Cultural Heritage of Andorra.
- Encamp This locality near Andorra la Vella offers a good choice of ski pistes and resorts and the best view of the capital city from above.
Since Andorra has no airports, the nearest ones are Perpignan 128 kilometres to the east in France where you will need to take a train to l’Hospitalet from where you can then take a bus towards Andorra la Vella. Following nearest airport is Lleida in Spain, 157 kilometres to the south where buses cover the distance to Andorra la Vella in around 1.5 hours. The next airports are either Toulouse to the north or Barcelona to the south east, both roughly at the same distance of 200 kilometres. Buses from both airports cover the route to the capital of Andorra and the many sky resorts. Of course the fastest way is by renting a car from any of those airports.
Entering Andorra by car from Spain represents no problem at all but from France is different story as the road bends on and on. Also be aware that depending on the weather conditions, specially during winter months, you might need to drive through the Tunnel d’Envalira which is almost 3km long and has a toll of 6.60 Euros.
Within the city you will not need any transportation at all. Distances are very small and you can walk to every sight, although there are many hills, ups and downs as in San Marino City, therefore have yourself comfortable shoes and be prepared to make some exercise.
We did not stay overnight in the city as we only came here on a day trip from Toulouse where our hotel was based. You need to consider all options as Andorra is not a cheap place nor has a lot of choice specially in the capital. Of course there are hundreds of sky resorts if your plan is to come for sky but prices are quite high. Unfortunately we cannot recommend any place to stay in the city on this occasion although if your plan is as ours, coming here to spend just a day, consider to get the hotel elsewhere from where you came in, as in our case, Toulouse. In any case, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.