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On September 2010 I went to Andorra (see map) with my wife. We don't like arranged travels and we
prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with
the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than
others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that's the best, gives you a different point
of view on the culture and way of life.
After my experience here you have my advice if you
plan to travel on your own to these areas. You have to understand that
this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to
criticize the people or culture of any of the mentioned places. You also must take into
account that these observations are from year 2010. Things might have
changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then. You must
also bear in mind that this is not a travel guide, but just the description
of my own journey and my own impressions. If you don't agree with
some of the opinions below just write your own WEB page with you own opinions,
but don't bother me.
Although we had been in Andorra in the past, we had always been for very
short periods of time, and as this year we wanted quiet holidays as we were
travelling with our dog and also due to health issues of my wife, Andorra
was the choice because of its proximity and the easiness to find an
accommodation where pets are welcome.
As I was in Avila, participating in the radio operation
EG3EME / 1, I went with the car to
Barcelona, to meet my wife who had gone with the dog on the ferry of
We spent a day with her uncle and aunt, who live in that city, and the next
day we left toward Andorra in a about four hours drive.
We went directly to Any? Park Hotel
where he had booked an apartment. This property is a complex of buildings,
both hotel and apartment hotel and SPA+Fitness, etc. The resort itself
seemed good, it has free WiFi in the bar, the staff was always very kind,
the room and bathroom were clean and you can park your car for free in the
car park. All were facilities for our dog, he could be with us everywhere,
except for bathing areas, gyms and restaurants. It is located in the lower
of the small village of Any?
and its only drawback (advantage for others, ourselves included) is that it
is somewhat isolated and is virtually essential to have your own transport
to access it.
The next day we moved to the nearby Andorra la Vella
, Andorra's capital and its commercial and administrative center. Meritxell
Avenue meets the majority of shops and department stores, which will satisfy
the most consumers. Unfortunately the price difference compared to Spain
it's not what it was years ago, with the exception of tobacco. Most shops
are open on weekends and only close for lunch, so shopping opportunities
abound, to the satisfaction of my wife. At lunchtime we opted for a terrace
overlooking the Grand Valira River, which flows through the city. I
can not recommend any particular restaurant, but I should mention that the
Andorran cuisine is heavily influenced by the Catalan and to a lesser extent
by the French. At least in the tourism establishments is difficult to find
local Andorran dishes and products.
The next day we took the road that leads to ski resort of
via La Massana and the beautiful village of Ordino
which is an ideal place to spend a few hours, walk the old town, eat and
visit some of the museums. Specially interesting, for its originality is the
museum of miniatures, where you will see (through a microscope), various
works of art in gold and silver.
Following the climb, passing through several villages (Sornas,
La Cortinada, Llorts, Les Salines) you finally reach
the ski resort, near the Estanys (lakes) de Tristaina to be reached
on foot in an excursion I had planned for another day, if possible.
The return is by the same road, but since it was still early, in
Ordino we took the road to Canillo passing by Col d'Ordino
(Ordino pass) , which offers some spectacular views.
The next day, taking the chance that in Arinsal
there was a mushroom fair, we came to this quiet town. After buying some of
the interesting products offered by the exhibitors, we returned to Any?
and took a secondary road that leads through a pass to Encamp. In the
last kilometres the road becomes a dirt track that on the dates we went
through was in a sorry state, certainly not recommended for passenger cars.
From Encamp, and with the car covered with dust of the
track, we headed toward the town of Pas de la Casa ,
just over the border with France and usual shopping spot for the residents
of the north, passing through the towns of Canillo, Soldeu
and others, all very focused on winter tourism, with little attractive to my
point of view.
For an overview of Andorra we needed to visit the zone closest to Spain,
so the next day we went south through
Santa Coloma and in Aixovall took the turning to Bissiarri, from
where a narrow but well paved road leads, in a steep climb, to Canolich
where there are some views that are worth (not much the chapel itself.) From
the chapel you must return by the same road, because if you continue
climbing it ends up being a track only passable by 4x4s.
Back in Aixovall we continued to Sant Juli?de L?ra
and then took the detour that starts to climb to Aixirivall and
Les Bordes de la Peguera. This road runs through a beautiful natural
setting among beautiful pine trees which must surely be plenty of mushrooms
and passes Naturlandia (La Rabassa), a theme park, devoted to nature and
adventure activities , which we did not enter but of which I have been given
A new day dawned when I went back to the ski resort of Arcalis with the
intention of doing the hike around
the Estanys de Tristaina .
The car can be left in the parking lot and then take the path up to the
lakes and around them initially to the east up north and then west back to
Arcalis by a different route.
The route can be done easily in 3 hours so I met my wife in the hotel
for lunch and in the afternoon we went to the hermitage of Meritxell,
patron saint of Andorra. The modern building was built and designed by
Ricardo Bofill in 1977. The chapel of the Virgin of Meritxell, patron saint
of the Principality of Andorra, was gutted by fire in 1972. The new
sanctuary is inspired by the Romanesque churches. The old chapel still
remains within the facility as a place of worship.
The next day was our last full day in Andorra and we decided to visit
two small but very beautiful valleys that I had good references. They are
the Ransol valley
and the Incles valley ,
that didn't disappointed us with their splendid nature, although I
personally was somewhat disappointed by their very small size.
Then we went to Lake Engolasters,
that is really worth a visit and walking around in a quiet and simple route,
imagining some of the many legends that exist about its origin. On its
shores there are several restaurants. We ate on the terrace of La
Dama del Lago ,
a restaurant that I can recommend.
Andorra is worth the visit, but despite its small size it takes
several days if you want to see it more or less completely. Many visitors
believe that it only exists the capital of Andorra (Andorra la Vella)
and the only thing to do is go shopping. Others believe that it's only worth
going in winter for skiing. The reality is that apart from these activities,
Andorra also offers plenty of alternatives related to its spectacular nature
and adventure sports. If you enjoy hiking it's ideal.
The authentic Andorrans are hard to find (there are many workers
and many residents who are not Andorran), so I can't comment on the
character of Andorrans. Andorran nationality is only granted to children
born of an Andorran. What is clear is that they are very enterprising
people, used to overcome the difficulties imposed by the topography of the
country and that have managed to take the best of the two countries sharing
a border with, Spain and France
The food, as I said before is heavily influenced by the Catalan
and to a lesser extent by the French. At least in the tourism establishments
is difficult to find real Andorran dishes and products.
Alcoholic drinks are reasonably priced and can be drank freely.
In addition, on the dates we were there there was also no legislation on
tobacco, so that smoking is permitted in virtually all restaurants, bars
Pets are accepted without problems in many hotels and other
establishments (department stores, etc.), probably due to French influence.
Spanish hotel keepers should take note of this.
Click on the links of the map below to see some
Photos and information of the area in my photo album.