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    Europe Travel

    Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees

    Location: Andorra la Velle

    Andorra, officially known as the Principality of Andorra, is a small landlocked country located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. With an area of just 468 square kilometers, Andorra is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Despite its size, Andorra boasts a rich history, stunning landscapes, and a unique cultural heritage. Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees.

    Welcome to Andorra

    Third Time’s The Charm

    We had considered visiting Andorra on two earlier occasions; before starting the Camino de Santiago and on a previous visit to Barcelona. Both times the logistics just didn’t work. So the third time is the charm. We had a few days to fill before heading to Greece, and a quick visit to Andorra seemed a perfect fit.

    Andorra nestled between France and Spain

    Mountain Majesty

    The country is known for its picturesque mountainous terrain, making it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. Andorra is home to several ski resorts, including Grandvalira and Vallnord, which attract tourists from around the world during the winter months.

    Beautiful day for hiking
    Hiking in Andorra la Velle

    Andorra’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism, with visitors drawn to the country’s scenic beauty, duty-free shopping opportunities, and vibrant cultural festivals. The capital city, Andorra la Vella, is a charming town with a mix of historic architecture and modern amenities. The city is also known for its quaint shops, bustling markets, and delicious local cuisine.

    Andorra la Velle

    Our Brief Visit

    We took the regularly scheduled Andbus from Barcelona which was convenient and comfortable (although I wished for a restroom). The three and a half hour bus ride started at the Barcelona Airport and ended at our hotel for the bargain price of $75 per person roundtrip. We spent three nights at the historic Hotel Pyrenees. The nightly rate in March was $80 for a comfortable room that included an amazing breakfast. If you plan to ski you might want a car, but for our brief visit we knew we could walk everywhere we wanted to go in the capital city of Andorra la Velle.

    There is wonderful dining and shopping in Andorra la Velle and we engaged in a little bit of both. I highly recommend two restaurants when visiting that we enjoyed;

    Spanish Tapas at Izai

    After a long travel day we ended up at this amazing restaurant right across the street from our hotel. We were looking for an early dinner, so we were presented the Tapas menu and what an unexpected treasure this place was. Absolutely delicious from tuna sushi to charcuterie. I highly recommend you visit Izai.

    Authentic Mexican at Cantinita de la Adelita

    We walked past this Mexican restaurant in the morning and the menu looked amazing so we tucked back in later in the afternoon. Spectacular selection of authentic Mexican treats in the heart of Andorra. I highly recommend you visit Cantinita de la Adelita.

    Izai tuna sushi
    Izai Charcuterie
    Amazing guacamole at Cantinita de la Adelita
    Tacos at Cantinita de la Adelita

    We did a lovely hike on a sunny but chilly morning on the Rec de Sola trail above town, giving us views back across the valley. We walked through the town and did a bit of shopping. Then we took some time to visit the Church of Santa Coloma is one of the oldest in Andorra. Dating to the pre-Romanesque period, it was built between the 8th and 9th centuries and has a rectangular nave and quadrangular apse. Its current appearance comes from the refurbishment carried out during the 12th century, when the four-storey Lombard-style circular bell tower was added.  It is one of the most photographed places in Andorra.

    Church of Santa Coloma
    Pedestrian shopping area
    A River Runs Through It – the Gran Vilira
    Caldea Spa

    On our final day in Andorra la Velle we spent several hours at the famous Caldea Thermal Spa. Many people come to Andorra la Velle just to experience this state of the art and beautiful facility. We bought tickets that included dinner at Blu Restaurant, and for $18 we were amazed how good it was. Then we headed to enjoy all of the pools, spas, ice baths and saunas. Caldea also offers classes and massage and much more. It’s an absolute must when in Andorra la Velle.

    Dinner at Blu Restaurant Caldea
    Dessert with a view
    Caldea Spa
    Enjoying the grapefruit pool, just one of many options

    The Heart of the Pyrenees

    Despite its small size, Andorra has a unique political system known as a diarchy, with the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell in Spain serving as co-princes of the country. Andorra is also known for its low taxes and high standard of living, making it an attractive destination for expatriates and retirees.

    Overall, Andorra is a hidden gem in the heart of the Pyrenees, offering visitors a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure opportunities.

    The Gran Vilira runs through Andorra.

    Thank you for reading my post Andorra – The Heart of the Pyrenees. See last week’s post When in Rome and stay turned for more upcoming Europe posts as we head next to the Mediterranean.

    Don’t miss last week book review Lincoln on the Verge

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