Guide to Europe’s Microstates: Andorra

Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Quick facts (most recent available data)
Population: 85,082 (11th smallest country by population)
Area: 468 sq km (17th smallest country by area)
GDP per capita (PPP): 37,200$ (23rd)

Visiting Andorra

Location and how to get there: Landlocked country located between Spain and France. I rented a car in Barcelona and drove to Andorra. Map

Why visit? Andorra is a charming country. Andorra la Vella, the country’s  pretty capital city offers nice walks and good views of the surrounding mountains, cool stone-built buildings, the Church of Saint Esteve and Europe’s largest spa complex, Caldea. But the main appeal of Andorra lies outside the capital: just driving around the little country on the narrow winding roads and admiring the breathtaking scenery si more than you need. Interesting sights outside the capital include the Esglesia de Santa Coloma d’Andorra Church built in the 9-12th century, the Pont de la Margineda bridge built in the 14-15th century and the spectacular El Pas de la Casa village located at over 2,000m altitude. Don’t forget to check out Tobotronc – world’s longest nature toboggan at 5.3km in length and speeds up to 40km/h and the Nikolai Syadristy microminiatures museum with tiny sculptures fitted inside the eye of a needle.

Recommended visit duration: 1-2 days

Fun facts:

  • As a principality, Andorra is headed by two “princes”, who are the President of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell
  • Andorra’s flag is similar to Romania’s (blue, yellow and red), the only difference being the coat of arms on the Andorran flag
  • Adventurer Boris Skossyreff proclaimed himself as “King of Andorra” in 1934. He was arrested in Spain an expelled one week later
  • Andorra hosts Europe’s largest spa complex, Caldea, and the longest nature toboggan in the world (5.3km).

Review of my trip to Andorra

Andorra was my last remaining microstate as it’s a bit remote compared to the others. I rent a car in Barcelona and take the 3-hour drive to Andorra la Vella. This time I find an actual border post guarding entry into the country but there are no formalities.

The cities of Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany located right next to each other are really cool (I’ll refer to both as Andorra la Vella). I start exploring immediately upon arriving. Located in a valley at 1,023 meters elevation the capital city offers great views of the surrounding mountains.

The central area is nice and quiet. There’s a high-tech look to the city, with cool monuments, bridges and urban art contrasting with traditional stone-built buildings. A small stream flows through the city. Salvador Dali’s Nobility of Time sculpture stands besides one of the bridges. The glass building of the Caldea Spa Complex glimmers in the sun.

I visit the Church of Saint Esteve and the nice square in front of the Casa de la Vall. There’s another square with cool views located on the roof a Government building – the Placa del Poble. I check out some of the shops and call it a day.

Next morning it’s time for a leisurely walk along the beautiful Rec de l’Obac trail, with the mountain and forest to the left and the city to the right. It’s really nice and there are even more opportunities to take cool photos and take in the sights.

Leaving the capital, I head to the nearby Esglesia de Santa Coloma d’Andorra Church built sometime in the 9-12th century period. Andorra is actually full of impressive historical buildings.

Next up is the Pont de la Margineda bridge, built in the 14-15th century.

After all of this historical stuff, it’s time for some fun and relaxation. Andorra is home to one of the coolest attractions I’ve ever seen – the Tobotronc! At 5.3 kilometers in length, this is the longest nature toboggan in the world. The Tobotronc is basically a cooler version of a roller coaster: you spend 10 minutes going up, climbing mountains among cool pine forests, and 5 minutes getting back down at speeds of up to 40 km/h!

After enjoying the thrilling ride I head to the Pas de la Casa village located at over 2,000 meters altitude. There’s lots of snow even in May and the views are breathtaking.

I pass into France just for the fun of it, drive around a bit and return to Andorra and have some excellent cheese fondue in Pas de la Casa.

Another cool Andorran attraction is the Nikolay Syadristy microminiatures museum which displays really tiny sculptures fitted inside the eye of a needle and which can be seen through a microscope.

Great attractions, great landscapes, great little country!

See more pictures in my Andorra photo album:

More information available in the Andorra country profiles on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage.

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