I love Andorra: This mini-country of 90,000 people (that’s the whole country!) wedged high up in the Pyrenees between France and Spain offers by far the best resort facilities and hiking in the region, has a thriving tourist industry and is still something of an insider tip. So here are a few of my favourite things to do in Andorra…
The capital, Andorra la Vella, is always worth a look. Much more than just tax-free shopping (although that’s fun too). Most visitors head for the Piazza del Poble, with its amazing views, but it has slightly too much concrete for me; I prefer the old town, and especially the Piazza Rotonda, with its 5-metre-high bronze sculpture, Nobility of Time, gifted to Andorra by Salvador Dali. On some days you’ll also find a lovely market here selling local produce like fruit jams, dried mushrooms and homemade remedies for colds. The swooping Paris Bridge over the Gran Valira River is beautiful.
10 minutes’ walk from the Piazza Rotonda in Escaldes, the Caldea is Europe’s largest spa complex offering its guests a unique combination of fun and wellness. It looks like some sort of futuristic cathedral with a stunning entrance and panoramic views over the Pyrenees. Fed by the region’s hot springs with its amazing therapeutic properties, its heart is a 6000-sq-metre lagoon kept at a constant 32°C. Imagine countless wonderfully warm indoor, outdoor and hydro massage pools, a lazy river, ice pool, water jets and Jacuzzis to name but a few. For those who enjoy a bit of relaxation, try the Aztec bath surrounded by a tropical garden, the grapefruit bath in a Japanese garden, the Hamman, the water beds or visit the aquatic bar and its Gaudi-inspired terrace.
Check out the Palau de Gel if you can: This vast ice rink is open every day of the year except Christmas, and offers ice carting, a children’s circuit on electric vehicles, hockey, curling, ice football and ice laser combat, a fight with infrared rays and much more besides. It’s not just about ice, though; it also has a heated pool, outdoor solarium, sauna, UV cabin, gymnasium, indoor rock wall, squash and tennis courts, restaurant, auditorium for up to 314 people, and a shop. Phew.
Also definitely worth making time for is Naturlandia, a very wonderful leisure and animal park. Very large, very green, and with exceptional views of the surrounding mountains, even by Andorran standards. The park’s star attraction, the Tobotronc, offers a four kilometre ride up and then more importantly straight back down the mountain at high speed. Like a roller coaster ride through the mountains! (Unlike many places, they’ll accept your Gopro as part of your clothing.) The leisure park also has mini golf, a climbing area, high rope garden with zip line and snow tubing which is great fun, trampolines, electric go-karts for all ages, and an archery range. The wild animal park is home to many animals native to Andorra, such as the Pyrenean Brown Bear, wolves and deer. If you like adventure, have kids and want to spend the day with nature, a total must.
Finally, there’s a high-speed go-karting track Marc Gene, at El Tarter. Great place to have fun with your children while getting the adrenaline flowing. They also have two-seater go-karts, which are even more terrifying. The track is open until the snows come in September and the skiers take over, but worth checking out if you’re there in the summer months.
And that’s my Andorra – the biggest and best mini-country I know of!