Hidden in a valley, walled by high mountains, Andorra is built from wood and stone, houses perched on cliff edges and peaks, the main road following the path of the river that rushes from the mountains, carving the land. When I told a friend that I was going to Andorra last year, he commented that he’d always thought of it as a made-up place, one of those mythical European kingdoms you see in movies.
The capital city of Andorra-La-Vella does have a bit of a fairytale feel, especially in the old part of town, though beyond there are shiny modern office buildings as well as lots of excellent tax-free shopping. Located between, and jointly governed by, France and Spain, Andorra is an ancient Principality steeped in history, with the capital city founded by Charlemagne over a thousand years ago.
The Casa De La Vall, above, was built in the sixteenth century and is still the state’s parliamentary house, though a new modern building nearby now houses much of the administration.
I loved the way the mountains felt, like a wall against the outside world, embracing and protecting the towns running along the valley. Apparently it can feel quite shut in during winter when the snow is high and travel more difficult, but the increasing popularity of the many ski resorts mean that there is plenty to do all year round.
When we left Andorra we followed the rushing river, which became wider and lazier as it headed towards Spain. As we crossed the plains I looked back, and all I could see were mountains, Andorra hidden from sight once more, as though it were never there.
Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next week!
Is it cheap? I love skiing! I’m so into geography that I’m so happy you clarified the French/Spanish bit. What y through an excellent Wednesday Wander. You lead the most geographically fruitful life! I live vicariously through you! 🙂
Thanks, Kristin! That’s high praise indeed from someone who’s just upped sticks and moved to Buenos Aires 🙂
Andorra is cheaper than the other European resorts, at least at the moment, plus the shopping there is cheaper than a lot of places in Europe because they are tax exempt, so when you go to Zara, for example, the price tags have a price in Euros for the rest of Europe, then a price for Andorra which is cheaper. And it’s just a gorgeous place!
That’s amazing! I love Zara! And I love how it’s in CA, TX, Buenos Aires, and of course Spain 😉 Now I’ve got a Zara itch- like I need more things! I consolidated everything into 3 suitcases before I moved. My roommate was like, you have many things. I was like, dude this is my whole life! I must go to Andorra!
Ha ha – time to start gathering stuff again! It’s quite liberating, getting rid of things, isn’t it? So a trip to Andorra shopping and skiing sounds pretty good, hey? 😀
Dude it does! I’m all about skiing and shopping!
Awesome! I’m not so good at snowboarding any more, but I’m good at hanging out and drinking hot chocolate in the ski lodge 😀 And I’m always up for a bit of shopping!
LOL yay! I’ll let you know if I’m ever in Andorra and maybe you can pop over! I haven’t tried snowboarding although it’s waaayyy popular in CA. It’s almost strange I haven’t done it!
That would be awesome! 🙂
I went there some 25 years ago, also in the summer. because it’s very much geared towards winter sports (at least, it certainly was then). It was almost deserted when I went, which suited me fine!
We were there at Easter, right at the end of the ski season, and stayed at one of the resorts which was very quiet (as it was the last week) – half the restaurants were already closed for summer, and it was quiet on the mountain too. I enjoyed the capital very much – would like to go back for another visit, I think. Plus the drive out through the mountains into Spain was lovely 🙂
I went by train through France, then got the bus from Aix. It was a good trip.
Oh, that does sound a good trip. We flew into Barcelona, then caught a bus from the airport straight to Andorra – the drive went through some pretty amazing scenery, but the suspension on the bus was so shot I kept looking behind us for the giant potholes we seemed to be going through. It was about 4 1/2 hours to get there, but seemed to go quite quickly simply because there was so much to see.
Yes, the scenery on ours was good, too. Nothing like a bus ride over the mountains to set the scene!
It sounds like the world’s perfect hideout! Tax free shopping is also a beautiful thing. I loved these pictures; I only recently heard of Andorra because of an online quiz I took, but didn’t know much about it. After seeing these pictures and hearing that it’s a hidden gem in a literal sense, I’d love to visit!
Thank you – it really is a gorgeous place, and I loved how hidden it was in the mountains. It’s well worth a visit, definitely 🙂
I’m the queen of going ghost; now you’ve given me a hiding place, hahaha
Yes, it would be an excellent place to disappear to 😉
Beautiful. Another one of your dreamy travel posts. Two minutes of spending time in another time & place just while reading this at my computer.
Thanks Angelika, really glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Writing it made me want to go back for another visit.
What a wonderful place Helen. Looks so secluded and private. Made me want to pack my bags and visit.
Thanks, Miriam – it really is lovely, and well worth a visit 🙂