After a few months spent traveling and working remotely from Spain, it was time for a proper holiday. The first of the two weeks I spent in Mallorca and Menorca, two of Spain's stunning Balearic islands in the Mediterranean. Ready for a change of scenery from the exquisite beaches and coastlines of the islands, I ventured back to the mainland with a flight to Barcelona before boarding a three hour bus north into the Pyrenees to visit my 34th country of Andorra and to spend a week hiking these world class mountains.
The entire country of Andorra - one of the smallest in the world - is pretty much all mountains and there are plenty of hiking trails to discover within these ranges. A reliable and regular bus systems connects the capital of Andorra la Vella to almost every nearby town in the country where many of the trails begin.
How to Get to Andorra
There is no airport or train station in Andorra, it's just too small. Andorra is a tiny little country tucked on the border of France and Spain, which you can travel to with your own car or, if you need public transport, by bus from either Barcelona, Spain or Toulouse, France.
The Flix Bus runs from Barcelona Sants train station and Barcelona Airport to Andorra and is approximately a 3-hour gorgeous drive through Costa Brava.
The And Bus runs from Toulouse centre and Toulouse Airport to Andorra and is approximately a 3.5-hour drive through the incredible Pyrenees.
Where to Stay in Andorra
There is no shortage of luxury hotels and spas in Andorra, given that many people come here to shop duty-free and take advantage of Andorra's tax haven status (it's not in the EU, after all).
However, given my usual travel style, I booked into a lovely little hostel in the heart of Andorra la Vella, the nation's capital. Alberg els Andes was not super clean, but socially warm and welcoming and so for that reason, I really loved my stay, plus you can see the mountains from the rooftop terrace! The hostel was a 5 minute taxi ride from the national bus station and located right next to regional bus stations and in walking distance of all of Andorra la Vella's amenities. It was just €20 per night when I stayed.
Things to Do in Andorra
Andorra la Vella itself doesn't have much going for it; it's sadly quite an ugly, industrial town which they really could have done better. But that aside, I feel Andorra is probably Europe's most underrated country thanks to its simply breathtaking landscapes. The whole country is mountains and they are truly wonderful.
1. Mirador Andorra
Partially reached through forest trails and partially on the road switchbacking up the mountain, up at the top you'll come across a panoramic view across the entire valley that Andorra la Vella sits in. The city itself is not particularly pretty but the surrounding majestic mountains took my breath away.
2. Casa de la Vall
Casa de la Vall is a museum in the heart of Andorra la Vella built in the 16th century which gives the history of this little country. It was closed when I visited, but this website gives a great guide.
3. Church of Sant Esteve
One of Andorra la Vella's most famous buildings thanks to its mountainous backdrop, Església de Sant Esteve was built in the 11th-12th century and then restored in the 20th century.
4. Pont de París
This bridge over the La Valira river that runs through the heart of Andorra la Vella features a brightly lit sign of the city which is a popular tourist photo spot day or night.
5. Estany Primer de Juclar
I hopped on a bus just outside my hostel and went up into Val d'Incles, a picture-perfect town from where you can do a variety of hikes into exquisite alpine meadows and reaching incredible mountainous lakes. My day hiking the trail up to Estany Primer de Juclar was quite possibly one of the happiest I've ever had.
6. Estanys de l'Angonella
I hopped on a bus to Ordino and then a smaller shuttle bus to Llorts from where this hike begins. While this trail was one of the hardest I've ever hiked with a 1000 metre vertical climb straight up the mountain, it was incredible and rewarding and everything I want from a beautiful day in the mountains with the trail reaching four beautiful lakes.
Got More Time?
If I had had more time in Andorra (which I was meant to have, but ended up on a spontaneous trip to Lisbon instead!) here's a few more things I would have done:
- take in the view from Mirador Roc Del Quer
- hike to Estanys de Tristaina
- hike to Coll dels Pessons in the UNESCO Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley