Unless you happen to be browsing an alphabetical list of countries in an atlas, its likely you’ve never heard of Andorra let alone knew it was its own country. We’ve just made our second visit to this unique and nature-filled travel destination and are as thrilled as ever to share how amazing it is.
Andorra is the world’s sixteenth smallest country, it is completely mountainous and landlocked between Spain and France. As such anyone who wishes to enter must have the ability to enter Spain or France and if you need a visa to enter both of those countries you need one to enter Andorra. Be sure to realize that a single entry visa to either of those places may not cover you upon reentering Spain or France if you happen to be checked at the Andorran border. There are only three roads that lead into the entire country from the outside and while you may be asked to show your passport, in our experience it is unlikely.
The country’s uniqueness doesn’t stop with its alpine splendor, it is historically ruled by two co-princes (The President of France and a local Catholic bishop) and only recently developed a parliament to make more day to day governance decisions. It is comprised of a small but complete capital city (Andorra la Vella) as well as many small towns and enclaves wherever the steep slopes give any room for construction to take place.
Many travelers from Europe make their way to Andorra for its reputation as a tax-free country. Here many luxury items, technology, perfumes and gourmet food products can be significantly reduced in price. However, note that there are only certain quotas allowed and at the borders with Spain and France random inspections do occur. Of the four times we have crossed we were stopped once and waved on after a few questions.
So why do we come to this far-flung mountain destination? It’s simple the unparalleled beauty of the outdoors plus the quality of life offered here is second to none. If you love to hike, run, road bike, mountain bike, ski, snowboard, climb and walk, this is the place to be. Kilometers of trails connect every town over breathtaking peaks and anyone looking for an outdoors challenge with rewarding views will tell you this is a spectacular place.
There are many wonderful places to stay all across the country. The towns have regular hotels which offer good quality service, there are apartments to rent, Airbnb’s to enjoy and virtually every type of accommodation is available. Recognize that space is a luxury in such a restricted mountain zone, but places are quaint, sturdy and efficient. We really enjoyed going for Airbnb’s that sat right on the mountainside giving us direct access to hours of hiking daily.
Andorra isn’t for everyone, but it will excite those who identify with an active lifestyle. It requires a good level of fitness even to walk up its steep streets, an alert driver for the narrow, but well-maintained roads and to really indulge in the country’s majesty, it’s a necessity to indulge in it’s raw and expansive outdoors.