Summer Trip to Andorra

What to do in Andorra in summer?

Let me tell you right away, there is no airport here. The only ways to get to Andorra are by bus from Barcelona (about 3 hours) and from Toulouse (about 4 hours). You can, of course, rent a car, take a cab, helicopter and all sorts of amenities, but that’s not the point. I came from Barcelona and left for Toulouse. So I have something to compare it with.

So, how to get from Barcelona? (More common variant) There are at least three companies: Local ANDBUS (site is also in Russian), and also DIRECTBUS, and Spanish ALSA. The stop of the first two companies directly at the airport of Barcelona (T1 and T2), ALSA leaves from the bus station Nord in the city center. The prices range from 33 euros for one way and about 56-60 euros for both ways. Each of these companies has 7-10 trips every day, depending on the season. I took ANDBUS, including to Toulouse (two trips per day). By the way, there was a comfortable minibus with a working wifi, with about 7 passengers (from Barcelona), and a slightly larger bus to Toulouse with about 15 passengers. Both times the transport was filled to a third, but it’s summer. You can buy tickets on the spot (but not in the bus), or in advance, for example on the Internet, or in a smartphone, preloaded app. The route is beautiful, especially in the mountains, on the way to Andorra (so from Barcelona I recommend to sit on the right to fully enjoy the views). Visa nuances. Andorra is not in the European Union, and is not a member of the Schengen Agreement. But you can enter its territory by Schengen visa. Frankly, at the entrance, the bus did not even stop at the checkpoints, and on the way out, due to the fact that one of the local passengers had to put a stamp in his passport, the border guard lazily checked the passports of other passengers. The currency was euro.

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01. And here was the capital of the Principality, Andorra la Vella. I arrived here at 5 pm, because the sun had almost disappeared behind the mountains (end of May), and in the gorge at an altitude of about 1100 meters, it was noticeably cooler. Hence the darkened evening pictures.

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02. The city was founded in the IX century, according to local legend, by Charlemagne, who gave the Andorrans the so-called Magna Carta (Great Charter of Freedom), for his help in defeating the Saracens. The whole subsequent history of Andorra is alternately connected with the history of France, then with the history of Spain.

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Not a megalopolis, of course, but the largest city in the country. It is home to about a third of the total population.

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04. In addition, it is the highest capital in Europe.

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06. At first impressions are the best: modern, clean, and very cozy.

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07. Walking the streets, I suddenly realized that only in such tiny countries and towns still retains the legendary spirit of “old Europe” without dirt, garbage, migration problems and open LGBT movements.

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08. The city seems almost empty at this time of year and day. Upon reaching the hotel, I found myself in a completely empty lobby with no visitors, no employees (and the hotel is not small) . In about fifteen minutes a friendly old man came in, gave me the keys to my room and wished me a pleasant evening.

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09. Despite the deserted streets, and the noticeable chill, I could not sit in the hotel, so I went in search of the old quarter of Barri Antique, symbolized above all by the Church of St. Stephen (XI century).

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10. It was once the birthplace of modern Andorra. Even today, ordinary people live here, just as they did centuries ago.

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11. By the way, to get around the main points of urban attraction can be about one hour, if you do not climb the mountains of course.

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12. the promenade of the local river Valira seems to be the territorial center of the city. Here are the main hotels, shopping centers, restaurants, the intersection of the main pedestrian arteries of the city.

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13. The mountain river is quite turbulent at this time, I do not know how in winter, freezing?

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14. The temperature dropped to almost zero, and I had an irresistible urge to take refuge in the warmth.

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15. Moving towards the hotel, looking at the euro marketing of modern shop windows.

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16. In some places it is quite brave and nice. )

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17. After having dinner in an almost empty restaurant, having been previously surprised by the Russian-speaking menu, I went to bed.

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18. In the morning I woke up with a cosmic premonition. )

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19. What have we got here? Bright sun noticeably warms up the streets, nothing left from yesterday’s “zero”, by lunchtime the temperature rose to +25C.

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20. In the sunlight I found out that I lived not in the capital of Andorra but in the nearest suburb of Escaldes (here it was a cosmic vibe, and also the freshest mountain air!)

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21. Of course the capital and the suburbs have no borders and the centers of both cities (as far as it is appropriate in this situation) are about 20 minutes from each other. ))

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22. The deficit of free space drives people higher and higher up the mountain slopes.

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23. Or maybe it is the lack of sunlight? However, this is debatable, because according to local statistics there are more than 250 sunny days a year.

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24. Quite noisy river Valira and some kind of medieval stone bridge.

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25. Very clean, potted flowers, nice historical graffiti on the side facades of the buildings. Lots of detail, should find a higher place.

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26. Worth thinking about, I immediately found something like this, right on the border of Escaldes and Andorra la Vella.

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27. Isn’t it beautiful? The Pyramid is a thermal complex Caldea, where there are various swimming pools, Jacuzzis, baths, spas, and other stuff. If you get tired of walking around the city, I recommend you stop by. A single ticket (from 33 to 68 euro for an adult, it depends on the time and the package) allows on average four hours to almost all pools, saunas, Jacuzzis, and other delights. Swimwear is also available inside.

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28. I went, but somewhat later.

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29. In the meantime, walking around, enjoying the cleanest mountain air, and beautiful views. This is probably the main purchase in summer Andorra.

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30. If you go left. ♪ you lose a horse ♪ you go to France, on the right you go to Spain.

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31. The administrative center of Andorra, the country’s government buildings are located here. And the seven figures of either wise men or poets,

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32. symbolize most likely the seven parocchias or communities that make up Andorra.

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34. Around the mountain,

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35. on the upper slopes of which, even at this time, there is still snow.

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36. The church of St. Stephen (also in photo nos. 9 and 37).

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37. Yes, there are even people here during the day.

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38. Moreover, something like minor traffic is visible. ))

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39. After wandering around the tiny Barri Antique for a while,

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40. having captured the Palace of the Parliament of Andorra,

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41. I finally decide to go somewhere in the mountains, especially somewhere near here starts the most interesting trail.

Summer Trip to Andorra

High up in the mountains, between France and Spain, is the tiny country of Andorra. First mentioned in a chronicle in the eighth century, today Andorra is known to the general public for its ski resorts and to financiers for its tax incentives. Much less known is the excitement of hiking and trekking the beautiful mountain trails of the country.

Climate and infrastructure

The mountain slopes, with crowded winter ski slopes, are liberated from the hustle and bustle in the summer, falling asleep. Ambitious mountain climbers don’t come here, because although Andorra is the highest country in Europe (the lowest point is at 840 meters), its highest mountain, Coma Pedrosa, is a modest 2,942 meters. Some travelers aspire to the high mountains of Catalonia and Aragon, while others come to Andorra simply to enjoy hiking. The ground here is hard, stony, and not slippery, suitable for uncomplicated hikes.

Andorra’s climate is also conducive to walking. Warm air rises from the Costa Brava. To the west, it is met by mountains, eliminating the collision of the Mediterranean and Atlantic fronts, which could cause gale force winds. At the same time, the eye is afforded a dramatic view of the high Pyrenees with its sixty-five main peaks, imposing moraines, magnificent lakes, vast alpine pastures and pine, beech, birch groves and forests.

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The infrastructure of Andorra’s hiking trails is hard to overestimate. Trails once laid out by shepherds, smugglers, horses, and cows are now clearly and distinctly marked and maintained not by the goodwill of tourists, but by groups of schoolchildren and students who are systematically guided during the vacations. If a hiker encounters a trail marker, he can be sure that the trail will not disappear somewhere in the mountains. The markings of those trails that have subsequently been deemed dangerous are destroyed so that not a trace is left of them.

Summer trip to Andorra - Photo 2

Summer Trip to Andorra

Mountain shelters

Andorra hiking is made exceptionally comfortable by a system of good mountain shelters. Anyone who has wandered the Pyrenees on the Spanish side is familiar with the frustration of a shelter reached at the end of the day that is littered with trash, half-roofed and full of mice. Andorran shelters, by contrast, are cleaned regularly, with trash hauled away in helicopters. The shelter is equipped with metal bunks, tables and benches, a fireplace, a first-aid kit, and a supply of firewood. Sitting at such a stone house in the evening with a glass of good drink, the tired traveler, watching the darkness descend, calms down, knowing that the place of lodging is warm and comfortable.

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Summer Trip to Andorra

Lake Engolasters.

The nice thing about Andorra is that after walking for more than an hour or two, it’s impossible not to go out to the lake. There are between 59 and 80 lakes in this country, according to various estimates. The largest is Lake Engolasters. After admiring the views of the valley from its shores, you can take a cable car to the town of Encamp.

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Summer Trip to Andorra

The glacial valley of the Madriu-Perafitu-Claror

The mountain trails of the southeast lead to the Madriu-Perafitu-Claror Glacial Valley, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. In addition to the mesmerizing nature, it is interesting to see granite houses with slate roofs.

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Summer Trip to Andorra

Le Bons and Santa Coloma Villages

In the central part of Andorra there is the village of Le Bons, notable for the buildings that have survived since the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Among them there is an irrigation canal and a water tower.

To the southwest, not far from the capital, in the village of Santa Coloma, one can see the ruins of San Vincennes Castle, built in the ninth century and until the twelfth century it had a defensive function. The church, with a round bell tower, functioned until the nineteenth century. In the same village was restored church of Santa Coloma, the nave of which was built no later than the IX century, and the tower in the XII century. The tower is also round and higher than the bell tower of the church of St. Vicens. Inside there are twelfth century frescoes.

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Summer Trip to Andorra

La Margineda Bridge

La Margineda Bridge, also near the capital, has been connecting the banks of the Valira River for nine centuries, despite its ascetic construction. The surrounding scenery is so mesmerizing that any tourist with a camera “hangs out” here.

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Summer Trip to Andorra

Chapel of San Serni

In the south of the country above the mountain valley of San Julia de Loria stands the Chapel of San Serni, famous for its preserved Romanesque paintings (Romanesque art, in general, dates back to the XI-XII centuries), as well as the decorative elements of the XII-XIII centuries. The capital of Andorra Andorra la Vella is clearly divided into two parts: a paradise for shopaholics and the Old Town. You can visit the churches of San Esteve and San Andreu of the XII century. The 16th century Casa de la Val belongs to the Casa de la Val, a name that reflects the architecture of the village’s lords’ houses. It is a three-storey rough stone building with a pair of paling towers. Since 1702, the House of the Valleys has been the seat of parliament.

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Andorra has no airport, but the distance from Barcelona to Andorra la Vella is only 200 kilometers.

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