Andorra Travel Guide
Andorra Guide Introduction
Almost hidden between France and Spain, the small kingdom of Andorra is a region of narrow valleys and alpine landscape. The country is being crossed by a main road that goes from the north-east to the south-west and along the way there are the main settlements. Many of them are villages with churches in a Romanesque architecture and houses in a local style. Further away from the main road there are hamlets outside time that offer stunning sights.Andorra is one of the oldest nations in Europe, founded by the Carol the Great, as the legend says. Since the beginning Andorra has been ruled both by the French and Spanish. The inhabitants accepted this formula that resisted to the present, as a compromise for a peaceful life. Today the economy is based mainly on tourism – approximately 10 million tourists visit the country every year, attracted by the winter sports, the summer time and duty free shopping.
Andorra Tourist Attractions
- Visit the village El Serrat, located approximately 18 kilometers away from Escaldes-Engordany, to enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountains.
- Visit the city Encamp, located between the capital city and the border with France, to see the medieval church and the stone houses.
- Don’t miss the MadriuValley, enlisted as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The U-shaped glacier valley will lead you to the Gargantilla Glacier.
- Look for good bargains – you may find products that are 30% cheaper than at home.
- Explore the capital city, Andorrala Vella. The attractions include a beautiful church from the 12th century and House at Vall, the former headquarters for the government.
- Relax in the resort city of Escaldes-Engordany. Besides the thermal springs you will find there beautiful examples of Romanesque architecture.
- Admire the colourful festival at the beginning of September, honoring the Virgin from Meritxell.
- Go skiing in Andorra’s resorts. The main center is Soldeu. You will find other resorts in Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig, near the border with France and Ordino-Arcalis, Arinsal-Pal, north from Andorrala Vella.
- Try cross-track skiing in La Rabassa resort.
- Go hiking through the mountains, rivers, lakes and wonderful countryside. The easier tracks are Cami Ral D Ordino in La Cortinada and Cami de les Pardines in Encamp.
- If you want to have a stimulating holiday you can always go horseback riding, biking, fishing, hunting and climbing.
The tradition claims that Andorra’s independence was gained by Carol the Great (Charlemagne) who captured the region from Muslims in 803. His son, Luis the Pious, granted this are the privilege of freedom. The oldest document about Andorra dates from 843 and it’s the record by which Carol the Third, Charlemagne’s grandson, hands over the Valleys of Andorra to the earl of Urgel, Sunifred.
The first constitutional documents of Andorra, Paretages (The Common Suzerainty Act) were written between 1278 and 1288 to settle the dispute between the catholic bishop of Urgell and the earl of Foix from France. The agreements by which the earl and the bishop agreed to share their suzerainty were the basis of the present government of Andorra and are one of the oldest documents that are still effective.
The strange political balance created by this agreement has saved Andorra from its powerful neighbours. After the French Revolution, France abolished the feudal rights, including the role played by the leader of France in ruling Andorra. This role was however restored by Napoleon in 1806, at the request of the Andorra’s inhabitants that feared the Spanish.
The modern role of Andorra as a center for shopping without taxes is a result of smuggling business with Spain that involved French products during the Spanish Civil War and Spanish products smuggling with France during the Second World War. Andorra remained neutral during both wars.In March 1993 Andorra voted for establishing the country as a democratic and independent parliamentary kingdom, offering the suzerainty to the inhabitants of the country. France and Spain have maintained a considerably diminished role in ruling Andorra. In the recent years, the duty free activities have brought to the kingdom both wealth and immigrant workers and also over 11 million tourists each year.