Smashed between France and Spain, blink twice and you might just miss it. An impromptu weekend trip, a short drive south from Toulouse you will enter the charming range of Andorra. This tourist destination is just 180 square miles and often forgotten about, as it is one of the smallest independent countries. 85,000 Catalans fill this monarchy nation. Limited in size but certainly not in stature.
At quick glance, I felt like I was in a ski town in Colorado and that is certainly why I fell in love. A quick 2-hour drive from Toulouse, France and just over 2.5 hours from Barcelona, Spain makes this rugged mountainous country an affordable and ideal trip for those who do not like to plan ahead.
A hike is certainly a must, with plenty of options beginning in Arinsal, in the northwest. Park at the Torrent Ribal and stop by the helpful guidance booth for a map outlined with hiking trails before you venture out. Choose between 9 different and challenging routes. With only 5 hours set aside for hiking, we chose the Cami del Refuge de Comapedrosa. At medium difficulty and 3.2 miles round-trip, we finished in just over 4 hours and were exhausted, thirsty and burnt (guess I should not forget the sunscreen next time).
Drive into town for a cold beer. Snack Bar Bull was right up our alley. With views of the mountains from the patio, a nice summer breeze and a cold one that was easy-on-the-wallet, we could not have had a better day.
Lodging options are vast, from cabins, ski resorts, campgrounds, and American hotel chains. We headed back east and stayed in the quaint city of Soldeu, a perfect fit for hitting the slopes. We quickly found out that during summer months you are pretty limited. With only a few restaurants and shops open, we settled in for the night after a quick bite and wander of the streets (our legs needed it). Canillo, a larger city, just a few minutes from Soldeu, appeared to be a better option.
A trip to Andorra would not be complete without shopping. It is time to stock up in this tax haven. For a vast selection, we headed to Andorra la Vella, the capital and largest city in Andorra. Frequenting several towns for a deal is not difficult though, since you can drive through the entire country in just a few hours.
The talk of the town encourages most to take a break from routine and spend a few hours at Spa Caldea, where they say “water is life.” Located in Escaldes-Engordany, this wonder is heated by natural hot spring water said to be plentiful. Polar baths, indoor lagoons, saunas and massages will certainly fit anyone’s needs. Holding the honors for Europe’s largest mountain spa, we left a little something for our next visit.
From kayaking, rafting, hiking, skiing, shopping, biking, four wheeling, horseback riding, and putting your feet up, you will have to plan ahead to determine what you want to do, but certainly take your pick. Anodrra, an ultimate site that caters to most!