Andorra

Andorra by CC user lorentey on Flickr

Introduction

While Andorra may be a European micro-state that most that live outside the region haven’t heard of before in their lives, this 468 square kilometre nation has made the most of its limited real estate, packing it full of medieval era churches and buildings in its small towns and villages, and spectacular mountain peaks throughout the remainder of its terrain.

Whether you are looking to hike through spectacular alpine backcountry, ski its steep mountain resorts, or enjoy a day or two soaking up some of the most charming settlements in Western Europe, Andorra is definitely worth the two to four days that it takes to experience this place.

Currency: Euro

Languages: Catalan, French, Castilian, Portuguese

Sant Joan de Caselles by CC user fer55 on Flickr

What To Do

While Andorra is a tiny country, its rural nature has blessed it with many charming attractions. There are many churches that date well back in history that are well worth seeing for the causal visitor.

The Church of Sant Esteve sits within the old quarter of Andorra la Vella, just as it has since the 12th century, and with a Romanesque design, it is a beauty to behold, especially with regards to its stained glass windows.

The Church of Sant Joan de Caselles in Canillo is another church that has aged well over the years, as this structure that dates from the 12th century boasts a Lombardian Tower and a Renaissance era altar that evokes images of the apocalypse as outlined in the Books of Revelations.

Finally, the Church of Sant Romà de Les Bons, built in 1164 in what is Les Bons in the present day offers Romanesque and Gothic painting of various Bible stories, as well as watchtowers that kept it safe in times of conflict.

The most significant religious icon in all of Andorra though is the reproduction of the statue of Our Lady of Meritxell. Housed presently in in the Meritxell Chapel within the Andorran village of the same name, the original idol was destroyed in a fire that consumed the old chapel in 1972.

Both were reconstructed, as the old statue was (and still is) the subject of a pilgrimage after a wild rose grew in front of it out of season. A chapel was eventually built on the site, and despite the disaster that befell the old relic in the 1970’s, the reproduction still endures as one of Andorra’s top cultural attractions.

Even in such a tiny rural mountain nation, there is a house of laws where Andorra’s affairs of the day are debated and dealt with. Taking on the appearance of a house (and indeed, it started its life in the 16th century as a manor for local nobles), Casa de la Vall is where the General Council of Andorra runs the day to day business of this country. Tours are available, though availability can become constrained during the busy summer season, so plan a day or two ahead to ensure that you get with a group during your time in Andorra.

Andorra skiing by CC user krass on Flickr

Many that come to this micro-nation are looking to experience its backcountry, and there is no better mountain for climbers and trekkers to tackle than Coma Pedrosa. Those that are less athletically inclined can hitch a ride on a cable car at Arinsal, while those looking to huff and puff their way to the top can generally make it in no more than four and a half hours. Numerous picturesque alpine lakes and tarns (lakes with no inlet/outlet, as they are the remnants of glaciers) can be sighted on the way up, and with no higher point in all of Andorra, the views over the valleys below are simply stunning.

In the winter, the numerous peaks of Andorra are a favored destination for skiers from across Europe, with Vallnord Ski Resort being one of the more popular places to shred some powder here.

Encompassing what used to be three separate areas into one centre of fun that appeals to young adults, families and seniors alike. From bunny hills to expert runs, kid friendly attractions to some of the best apres ski nightlife in Europe, Andorra is a spot that is well worth your consideration if you are looking for a snow holiday off the beaten track.

Trinxat by CC user morrissey on Flickr

What To Eat

Despite its tiny size, there are a number of dishes that are more commonly found here than in other places in the region. One of those meals is Trinxat, which is a type of potato cake that contains cabbage and bacon, and is generously seasoned with salt and pepper.

While skiing and snowboarding in Andorra is a fun endeavour, going hard through all that snow in chilly conditions will likely leave you wanting something that will warm you up from the inside. One of the best dishes in Andorra suited for this purpose is Escudella, which is a soup or stew (depending on preparation) that contains yummily-seasoned meatballs that are simmered with vegetables like cabbage, carrots and celery.

Those seeking to stay local when dessert time swings around will want to seek out a Coca pastry, which often resembles a dessert pizza in its sweet incarnation. Coca de Sant Joan comes with candied fruits and pine nuts, and the coca de crema comes with sweet cream and custard, but there are many other varieties of this popular pastry, so don’t be afraid to experiment: you are on vacation after all!

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