The Principality of Andorra, the ‘Country of the Pyrenees’, is an independent state with an area of 468km², a population of less than 80,000 and more than a thousand years of history tucked between Spain and France. With 65 peaks over 2,000m high, the country is known internationally for its ski resorts, yet the rugged landscape, mountain lakes, steep valleys, and sub-Mediterranean climate make Andorra an ideal summer activity destination.
Andorra’s spectacular Pyrenean backdrop offers some of Europe’s most beautiful walks at varying difficulty allowing walkers of all levels to enjoy the mountains. Gentle trails, such as through the picturesque Incles Valley, perhaps Andorra’s prettiest, follow routes past wallflower displays, colourful mountain flora and lush meadows where cattle and horses graze. More demanding hikes can encompass rough terrain and often lead to a mountain lake from where panorama views of the Principality can be enjoyed. At almost 3,000m, the summit of Comapedrosa offers great views into both neighbouring France and Spain. Along the routes lie ‘refuges’, traditional mountain huts providing shelter and accommodation to hikers, many of which are free.
Exploring the country by bike is another popular summertime pursuit thanks to numerous dedicated cycle circuits, thrilling downhill routes and two bike parks in Vallnord and Soldeu. The mountain bike trails are of varying grades and suitable for beginners through to professional riders and a unique way to see the mountains, nature and Andorran culture.
In addition to hiking and cycling routes, the amazing scenery offers a host of other mountain sports, including via ferrata, climbing, canyoning, zip wire and horse riding excursions. Activity adventure companies offer mountain guides for walking and cycling, as well as other active tourism programmes. Those that prefer to do it alone can find hiking and cycling routes on the Visit Andorra website (www.visitandorra.com), or download the Active Tourism Andorra app.
Andorran Wildlife and Nature
Andorra is home to some of Europe’s rarest and most colourful flora, as well as a variety of wildlife typical of alpine and sub-alpine regions. With 90% of the total land mass covered in forest, Andorra’s three national parks are an excellent place to discover the rich biodiversity, with different species found in each one.
The plants and animals in the Comapedrosa Nature Park, such as the pallars lizard, the Eagle and the bearded vulture, plus Pyrenean yellow gentian and Alpine violet among the flora, have adapted perfectly to the high mountain climate where Andorra’s highest peak sits at 2,942m. The diamond-shaped Sorteny Valley Nature Park in the north is of great botanical and ecological interest, home to more than 700 species of flowers and plants, over 50 of which are native to the Pyrenees. These can be seen on a visit to the botanical gardens, although there are numerous walking routes of varying grades to explore nature. The Madriu- Perafita-Claror glacial valley, declared a World Heritage listed site by UNESCO in 2004 for its natural and cultural wealth, is in
the south of the country and covers 10% of the territory. The valley has a particular ‘o’ shape due to its glacial origin, and has pastures, meadows and large extensions of forests. Mountain huts, ‘bordas’, paths and the remains of ancient forges are reminders of the high Pyrenean mountain resources used by the inhabitants of Andorra for more than 700 years. Given the importance of this area, it is the only valley in the country in which vehicles may not enter.
Aside from these protected areas, many other valleys offer a wide range of ecotourism trails, including the glacial Incles Valley, the Enclar Valley, part of the Anella Verda (Green Ring) route, the Pessons Cirque and the Camins dels Oficis (Old Trades Route) and are ideal for discovering Andorra’s natural heritage.
Family- Friendly Andorra
Families love the adventure circuits in Segudet and Engolasters forests, which consist of passing from one tree to another over different obstacles, such as wooden platforms, rope riding, monkey bridges and a wall fitted out with iron railings. The forests of Scots pine are up to 20m in height with unbeatable views and suitable for children over seven years old.
Family parks in the mountain resorts also offer a multitude of leisure activities suitable for all ages: Family Park Canillo offers slides, ball pools and bouncy castles in its children’s area, while older visitors will enjoy activities such as archery, tubing, canoeing and donkey rides. Vallnord Mountain Park has a dedicated area for those aged from 18 months to 11 years, while the BMX courses and entertainment area will keep the older ones amused. Naturlandia is a multi-activity theme park where Tobotronc, the world’s longest alpine slide in natural surroundings, and Airtrekk, the longest sky trail in Europe, are among the highlights. Naturlandia’s Animal Park is one of Andorra’s newest attractions and is open 365 days a year.
Andorra has several international airports at less than 125 miles away: Barcelona, Toulouse, Girona, Reus and Lleida. From the UK in the summer, Toulouse and Barcelona are the best options, both of which are served by airlines from multiple regional UK airports several times a day. Monarch, Jet2, easyJet, British Airways and Vueling Airlines fly to Barcelona from all major UK airports (London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Belfast and Cardiff). British Airways and easyJet fly to Toulouse from London and Bristol.
There is a regular shuttle bus service to Andorra from both airports with a transfer time of around 3 hours and with several stops in Andorra. Shuttle bus prices are:
- From Barcelona Airport to Andorra La Vella – 54€ return
- From Toulouse Airport to Andorra La Vella – 62€ return