Since 1990 I haven’t visited Andorra. Just a quick stop on a school bus to do some shopping, it barely counted as visiting the country. So I was thrilled to revisit this curious country between France and Spain in July 2017.
Last weekend I flew into Barcelona airport and made the 3 hour bus journey to this mountainous location.
Most people think of tax free shopping and skiing when they think of Andorra. I didn’t do either of these activities on my 48h in the country.
Here´s how I spent my weekend in this small principality
Summer weekend in Andorra:
Cirque du Soleil
Even though I have alreayd seen three Cirque du Soleil shows, Saltimbanco, Alegria and Totem. I was super excited to see them again in Andorra. Stelar is on throughout July every night.
The show is lived through the dreams and nightmares of the protagonist. Moving through clouds and fantastic landscapes, the show includes a variety of mystical creatures which lead us through the story.
My tickets for Stelar were in the seated stand. You can get Stelar tickets for 18 euros online. A great price for this spectacular show.
If you prefer to stand for the show you can book Free tickets online while they are available.
- Doors open at 8pm (Food available inside from 8pm-10pm)
- Show begins at 10pm (Pre Show Entertainment at 9.30pm)
- Wrap up warm as the Circus Tent is partially covered. As nightfalls temperatures may cool and you may feel the chill after a while.
- Have dinner nearby at Mira K Bé. Delicious tapas and sharing dishes and they are next to the Cirque du Soleil Car park. Book a table and dine at 7.30pm – 8pm
Termes de Caldea
Enjoy an Adults only spa session at Caldea. Inside Europe’s largest recreational spa you have 6000m2 of water, jets and Jacuzzis to help you disconnect and unwind. The Adults only area in the upper level of Caldea costs 70 euros for a day pass or 50 euros for the morning.
They also have an area in the main spa for Children only. It is a family friendly place. Even though it is huge Caldea is a popular attraction in Andorra. It does get busy on weekends.
I visited on Friday afternoon as soon as I arrived to Andorra. Even being on the weekend at that time it was not too busy. I loved the tunnel which stretches outside the main complex. You can swim outside the building and see the beautiful mountains around you from inside the warm pool.
Remember to take a towel with you as they are not included in all the ticket prices.
Local Andorra Food
The food in Andorra and Catalonia are unsurprisingly similar.
Trinxat and Escudella are the most typical dishes. Hearty mountain food to warm up on cold days.
- Trinxat is a dish made from cabbage and potato, with panceta or ham added. It reminds me of British dish bubble and squeak .
- Escudella is a tasty pork stew with seasonal vegetables.
- Botifarra – catalan sausage, usually served with baked potato and garlic mayonanaise
- Crema Andorrana is a creme brulee style dessert. Where the catalan version has a crispy caramleised topping this Andorra version doesn´t
Eating out in Andorra
- Borda Raubert, La Massana – A typical stone farmhouse in the mountainside of La Massana. This homely rural location serves everything thats typical in the area. Hearty cheeses, great wines, fresh vegetable dishes, catalan sausages and delicious fish. Don´t miss the Cold Nettle soup, it doesn´t sound appetising but its delicious….. and doesn´t sting either.
- Jaleo Andorra la Vella – This cosy bistro is handily located opposite the Caldea spa. They offer casual dining, sharing plates or a full meal. I tried their goats cheese salad and the lemon meringue pie. Both very recommendable.
- Mira K Be Andorra La Vella – Patatas bravas served with the tasty sauce, chicken barbecue wraps and a fresh green leaf salad. This light dinner was tasty and just right as an early mael before the cirque de soleil show. They have a special Circus menu on to speed up orders during July as they are close by.
- Restaurant Topic Ordiño – The dishes here were good value and the portions were huge. I had a feta cheese pizza and tried some asaparagus risotto. Sitting outside on the main street of this mountain village was a great location to while away a summer day.
Hike Breathtaking Landscapes
With the mountains of the Pyrenees and lots of stunning natural lakes around. There are plenty of breathtaking landscapes to choose for outdoor activities. Andorra is a great place for hiking, horse riding, via ferrata and mountain biking in summer.
Trails are well signposted and there is information at the trail head and along the paths.
If you are exploring the Pyrenees and futher beyond Andorra, check out these photos too of the Faja de las Flores a thrilling Pyrenees Hike
Vall de Madriu
I celebrated the 13 years of the Vall de Madriu being declared UNESCO World Heritage with a morning hike up to El Ramio. This uphill route began at 1347m and climbs up to 1620m when it reaches El Ramio barnhouse.
With views of Andorra La Vella and the river Madriu this route is surrounded by water, hazelnut trees and other plants too.
Discover Ancient Stone Buildings
Some of the wonderful buildings I visited on my Andorra trip was this Pre Romanesque Church. The Church of Santa Coloma built in the 8th-9th century. It has a beautiful Lombardian style circular tower. Standing 18 metres high this stone church is nestled amongst stone walls within a small village. It stands there unaffected by time. I find it quite unbelievable that it has reached 2017 so effortlessly.
Guided visits to the church are available in Summer months. (Bookings: Andorra Tourism)
We also visited the Traditional Mountain House of Casa Rull at La Massana. This grand home was one of the most important of its kind in Andorra 100 years ago. This family lived off the land, with sheep, goats and a plantation of tobacco. Kept as it was in the last century, Casa Rull shows how life in Andorra was traditionally.
Don´t miss the Museum Pass.
Casa Rull can be visited together with the Tobacco Museum, the Carmen Thyseen Museum or the Motorbike Museum. There are actually 20 in Andorra to choose from. This little red pass gets you in with discounted tickets.
Enjoy this Sweet Exhibition
Find your country flag in the ‘Sweet Candies Caramels´ exhibition by French artist Laurence Jenkell. This outdoor exhibition is on the main streets of Andorra la Vella. It is on throughout the summer until 11th September. The main exhibition is inside the ArtalRoc Gallery on Avinguda Carlemany d’Escaldes-Engordany.
They have a few activities linked to the exhbition:
- Saturday 5th August and Saturday 26th August – Craft Workshop – Making Butterfly Sweets – Sign up as places are limited by email: email@example.com
- Instagram Competition ´Banderes dolces’ Tag @accioculturalandorra in your Instgram photo of one of the Flag Sweets in Andorra and add the Hashtag #banderesdolces .
- You could win an exhibition catalogue from Laurence Jenkell. (Sent to International Addresses) More information cultura.ad
Andorra la Vella Shopping
Tax Free shopping in Andorra is best for Cosmetics and Electronic items. Make your list before you travel. There are also lots of Outdoor and Sports Stores, as well as designer clothes shops.
Due to so much going on that weekend I only had a short time to see the shops myself but I can recommend the Mango Outlet which is huge. (Carrer Pau Casals)
The main shopping area is along the Avenida Meritxell and surrounding streets.
Andorra has its own customs laws when you enter and leave the country. So please check when you are purchasing highly price items such as jewellery or goods such as tobacco, alcohol etc.
Useful Andorra Info
- By plane: Fly to Barcelona. The Direct bus by Julia Bus Company leaves from Barcelona airport and Sants Bus Station. There is no airport in Andorra.
- Please note that the bus journey takes 3 hours and you cannot eat on board. At the border control going in and coming out of Andorra passports and ID will be requested by the local police.
- Driving from France and Spain. Make sure you have the correct documentation for everyone in the car. Because you are crossing into another country.
- Language The official language here is Catalan. Spanish and French are spoken and some English too.
- Local currency is Euros
- The Phone Company here is MovilAnd. Check you roaming tariffs before you travel. Andorra is non EU country. Your mobile operator may not cover the calls and generate unexpected costs.
- Wifi is available in most restaurants and hotels at no extra cost.
- Healthcare Make sure you have Travel & Medical Insurance when travelling to Andorra. The EHIC (European healthcard) does not cover Andorra.
Andorra Fun facts
Finally a few good to know points about Andorra.
- Highest Capital City in Europe of 1,023 meters.
- Area: 181 square miles – 468 sq km
- Founded in 1278 its borders are unchanged since then
- Andorra participated 6 times in Eurovision in the Semifinals.
- The flag of Andorra looks similar to the Romanian Flag.
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