The Principality of Andorra, with its 85,000 inhabitants, is the sixth-smallest nation in Europe. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is situated high in the Pyrenees, between the mountains of Val de Nord and Val del Orient at 1,023 meters above sea level, which makes it the highest European capital. Andorra is annualy visited by 10 million tourists, and due to the fact that it has been isolated for a long time because of its geographical position, the highest percentage of visitors come from Spain, especially Catalonia, France and Portugal. There are several reasons for this high number of visitors: its ski slopes, a big spa center called Caldea and very low taxes, which turned the country into a huge duty free shop.
We have been thinking of visiting Andorra for a long time because it is a very popular weekend destination among people in Barcelona, both in winter and summer. Andorra is located about 215 km from Barcelona and local bus companies depart to Andorra every hour and it takes about three hours to get there. So it’s ideal is to spend a weekend there, walk through the capital, relax in the spa center and visit some of many shopping centers located in its center. If you come in low season, you can reserve a hotel for very affordable prices and many hotels even offer discount for Caldea. We were accommodated in the new part of he city, in hotel Tudel, on the main avenue called Carlemany very close to Caldea, while the old city center is located about twenty minutes walking from there.
We arrived to Andorra after three hours of rather unpleasant ride through a curvy road. Saturday passed quickly, regardless of the heavy rain that followed us the entire time. We visited the old town and the main avenue Carlemany (Charlemagne) which was packed with people who, like us, have come here to spend the weekend. As I already mentioned, Andorra is located in a valley between the mountains of Val de Nord and Val del Orient and consists of the old and the new part of the city with the main street Carlemany in its center, and everything important in the city is located along this street. Let’s be honest, Andorra is not a place you come to and visit museums and monuments, it is a place in the mountains where you can enjoy skiing, beautiful nature and the visit to its spa center and shopping malls. Regardless of the fact there are not many attractions there, I really liked the old part of town, typical mountain homes and stone buildings with wooden roofs. I liked its peace and small narrow streets more than the Carlemany avenue, full of people and noise. The beautiful Andorra nature, in perfect harmony with its architecture, really amazed me and I imagine it must look like a place from a fairytale in winter.
We visited a lot of shops at Carlemany avenue, looking for a camera, and we were rather surprised with the difference in price between Spain and Andorra and the difference in prices between the shops in the city. You can find like five shops selling cameras in an area of 100 meters, and each seller will tell you a different price and try to convince you they offer the best conditions, the longest warranty, as well as the best accessories and a lower price. You get the impression you are in a huge flea market where everyone is trying to convince you to buy something from them, but on the other hand, in some stores they try to trick you in an obvious way and if you are paying by credit card they charge you more and say the reason is that Andorra is not in the European Union. This, of course, is not the case with all vendors, so you have be careful where you shop. I was quite surprised by the number of shops selling perfumes in the main street at much lower prices in relation to Spain and especially France.
After an entire day spent outside, we decided to relax in the evening in the spa Caldea because everybody talked so much about it so. Coming to Andorra and not going there would be out of question. We got the tickets as a gift, but you can purchase them on Caldea’s website, and tickets for 3 hours in Caldea cost 35 euros per person. Caldea looks really beautiful, it consists of a large swimming pool, which contains several round hot tubs, outdoor swimming pool, from which you can enjoy the view of the mountains, a Roman bath, and a sauna. I have to admit it looks a really good but, when we were there, there were so many people that it was impossible to relax and enjoy anything. Hot tubs were full, people were packed like sardines, Roman bath was crowded with people talking loudly and ignoring the employees who were trying to convince them to be quiet. I think if you go there during the week or in the morning, there won’t be so many people and you’ll enjoy more. We left Caldea not satisfied by our visit.
We spent the entire Sunday in the city because, unlike on Saturday, the sky was clear and everything looked much nicer. We’ve visited the old part of the city and we were able to visit everything one more time, make a lot of photos and really get to know the capital of Andorra. Its charm fascinated us so much that we want to see how it looks when covered with snow, and I hope you will be able to read about our experiences on the ski slopes of Andorra soon. In conclusion, we liked Andorra as a weekend destination, as it can be reached relatively quickly, it has a lot to offer and you can visit it in the winter and summer.