Andorra Destination Guide
A little nation sandwiched between France and Spain that not many people know about but everybody should visit. With breathtaking views of each town from the surrounding mountain tops, amusement parks, unlimited options for outdoor adventure and an insane amount of tax-free shops, there’s something for everyone. Not to mention that it’s a short drive from Barcelona, making ski weekends really easy to pull off.
Population: 80,000 little minions (fun fact: it’s the 11th smallest country by population in the world)
Language: Catalan and Spanish (fun fact: it’s the only country in the world with Catalan as its official language)
Nationalities: Spanish, French, Portuguese and Andorrans (fun fact: Andorrans are the minority in their own country)
Surf report: zilch (snow skiing on the other hand…)
Cookie-cutter must see’s: feeling serious? Here’s the serious sights:
Naturlandia – A nature-themed fun park for families with young children, and the young at heart. There’s animals, archery, trampolining, a terrifying mini-rollercoaster and so much more. Entrance for big kids in about €30. It’s located in Sant Julia de Loria, which like anywhere in Andorra, is easily reached by bus from anywhere else in Andorra (except for El Serrat, which requires a whopping two buses).
Caldea Spa Complex – A huge natural spring complex with indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis and hydrotherapy sections. Caldea is easily the most heavily advertised attraction in all of Andorra, so it must be good. It’s located in Escaldes-Engordany, a short walk from the main shopping strip – look for the phallic glass spire poking up between the mountains. Entry is €35 during the day or €30 at night. Go soak your tinea-ridden feet after a day of hiking.
Duty-free shopping in Andorra la Vella and Escaldes-Engordany – Walk along the massive street of Avinguda Carlemany and you’ll find shop after shop filled with duty-free goodies. From pharmaceuticals and cosmetics to laptops and electronics, to alcohol and tobacco, there’s no shortage of bargains. Although Andorra la Vella is the “main town” in Andorra, Escaldes-Engordany is thriving in comparison and is the better place for buying your Prada clogs.
Museu de Tabac – learn how Tobacco is grown and made in the Tobacco museum in Sant Julia.
Get your adventure on at Canillo – The walking track between Canillo and Soldeu is an excellent trail for you amateurs who want all of the views with only moderate strain. Our tip? Catch the bus to Soldeu (line L3, €1.80) and start the track from there, as you’ll have less of an incline to deal with. The beginning of the track is a couple of minutes down the road from the tourist information centre in Soldeu and the lovely lass in there will be happy to point you in the right direction. Once you find it, follow the red coqs and horse shit and you’ll know you’re on the right track. You’ll pop out back in the centre of Candillo, how convenient.
Sant Corneli – a beautiful ancient clock tower building in Ordino… Go for a €1 beer at the Snack Bar Quim across the road and enjoy the view of the mountains behind.
The alternative cool shit: feeling avant-garde? Here’s the Stoke choices:
Hit the road, Jack – Andorra is tiny, and the best way to discover every nook and mountain cranny is to pack your international license, a tent, hire a car and and explore on wheels. With seven parishes, historic towns dotted all over the Pyrenees, and places to fish, climb, horse-ride, mountain bike and hike, we recommend hitting the road to uncover the parts of Andorra that most tickle your fancy. This is probably an option best saved for summer, as once winter comes the roads are icy and the weather cold. Gold Car has an office in Andorra la Vella, prices start at about €30 a day.
If you’re not a confident driver, or you forgot your international license (our bad), the buses run regularly and it seems to that you can get anywhere in the tiny nation for the low, low price of €1.80. Escaldes-Engordany is a larger centre well-serviced by buses and makes a good base from which to explore the rest of Andorra. We recommend Hotel Siracusa – it’s opposite hiking trails, just up the road from the main shopping strip and even closer to a bus stop and the tourist information centre.
Go to the snow with Stoke – When the weather gets chillier and you run outta European festivals to attend, partake in powder of a different kind with Stoke’s Andorra Snow Weekender. The Andorran Pyrenees are regularly referred to as the best in Europe for snow sports, and we make it easy for you with return transport from Barcelona to Andorra’s best slopes. There are runs to suit everyone, whether you’re green, blue, red or black. And apres-ski by night, of course.
Follow the signs that say ‘Cami de la Canaleta’ (directly opposite Hotel Siracusa) in Escaldes-Engordany and hike up the mountain until you come across the road. Climb over the fence and you’ll be faced with a crematorium/cemetery (bear with us… it has excellent views), from there catch an “EE” (Escaldes-Engordany) public bus or hitchhike to the very top of the mountain. You’ll find a free campsite, the beautiful lake d’Engolasters and a bloody nice view of Andorra la Vella.
Camp del Serrat – hike up to Lac d’Engolasters in the Escaldes-Engordany mountains (or there’s a bus from Escaldes-Engordany if you’re a lazy bastard) where you’ll find the most beautiful campsite overlooking the city and lake. There’s even a pub and restaurant up there if you get sick of eating tinned tuna. From Camp del Serrat there are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore. Adventure company Bosc Aventura also has a base there, and they can take you and your illegitimate children mountain biking, zip-lining and tree climbing. Hotel Camp del Serrat offers accommodation if you’re more of a “glamper”. If not, just take advantage of the bar.
Chesterfield House – It may seem that Escaldes-Engordany is largely populated by couples of all vintages walking their designer dogs, and Spanish and French families buying duty-free Nikes. Find your own demographic at Chesterfield House, a three-floor bar filled with ottomans, lounges and stools disguised as tree trunks. The lovely staff are more than happy to recommend a vino blanco or cocky-t, which you can sip as you watch Armani-dressed women walk their chihuahuas through the glass walls. It has DJs on the weekends and free wifi, so also makes a good spot to swipe right.
Under no circumstances does Stoke recommend…
Not wearing a bra to dinner at Don Denis in Escaldes-Engordany and flirting heavily with the waiters. You’ll end up with bread, olives, roast artichoke, stuffed tomato, ratatouille, profiteroles, a plate of biscuits and chocolates, two glasses of vino blanco and four glass of champagne for €24. Just batter your eyelashes and tell them everything is “very bueno”.
Sneaking onto the cable car heading up to the Mont Magic family fun park in Canillo – not because you’ll be caught but because you’ll end up in a family fun park with bulk kids running around.
Hitch-hiking to the top of El Serrat mountain – you might end up in a car with a man named I.C. Iceface who tries to add you on facebook so you can meet up later for some “English lessons”.
No seriously, Stoke does not recommend: tourist traps
Going to McDonald’s in Escaldes-Engordany – Obviously it is always bad to neglect local businesses in favour of the fat cats of McD’s, but sometimes you just need reliable free wifi. Is it really “free” though? At €3.10 for a large chips, we think not. And the wifi isn’t even very good.
Staying put in Andorra la Vella – it may be the “main town” of Andorra, but there is so, so much more to see and do elsewhere that we cannot condone staying put. Hire a car, jump on a bus or even walk.
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