Our Travels: Andorra

At this precise moment in time, there are World Words team members dotted all over the world. Literally. All over the world. It’s inevitable, really – when you are a team of travel content writers and editors, discovering far-flung corners of the globe isn’t only our greatest passion; it’s part of the job description. After all, it’s this on-the-ground expertise that allows us to create exactly the kind of well-informed, superior-quality content that our clients crave.

Every once in a while, we like to give our readers some insight into where on earth our team members are. And we do this through a blog series called, imaginatively, Our Travels. In the past, we’ve covered our writers’ trips to everywhere from Lisbon to Luang Prabang, Guatemala to The Gambia. This time, it’s the European microstate of Andorra. Scroll down to read about our editor-in-chief Joe’s trip, the realisation to a 17-year-long travel ambition…

Joe standing outside Sant Joan de Caselles Church, his first stop on a long-awaited trip to Andorra.

Why I went to Andorra
In October 2002, at the tender age of 17, I took a trip with two very good friends – Tim and James – to Salzburg in Austria. It was the moment I caught the travel bug. During the next few years, the three of us travelled across the continent, from Sweden to Hungary, Italy to Latvia. At one point during this time, I made a pledge to myself that I would visit every country in Europe before I died. It seemed like a long shot. Yet, after a trip to Belarus in summer 2017, I was left with just one country to complete the continental set; the one that had always got away. Andorra.

So when my friend (and fellow Euro-veteran) Tim told me was visiting with his wife Becky in August, I had to join them. Not only to cynically complete my list, but to spend the day in a unique country I’d always yearned to visit.

My highlight of the trip
Andorra had been on my travel radar for so many years, and had eluded me for such a long time, that the biggest highlight for me was just finally setting foot on Andorran soil. And I could not have chosen a better place to do it.

After sitting in the car at the French border for an interminably long time – a recent landslide was causing lengthy, slow-moving queues – we eventually crossed into Andorra. Then, after a short drive to get away from the worst of the traffic, we parked up right beside the Església de Sant Joan de Caselles. The postcard-perfect Romanesque church, which dates back to the 11th century, sits in a valley with spectacular views of the Andorran Pyrenees and extremely welcome lungfuls of fresh mountain air. It turned out to be the perfect introduction to Andorra, not least because this was just one of many Romanesque churches we’d see during our one-day express tour of Andorra.

What else I love about Andorra
We visited a number of different communities in Andorra, from the picturesque village of Ordino (with its charming Carrer Major street) to the livelier town of Encamp (with its very highly recommended Casa Cristo ethnographic museum). We also spent a couple of hours in the capital, Andorra la Vella, though we left rather underwhelmed.

Ultimately, though, the most appealing aspect of Andorra is its stunning mountain landscapes. We spent a lovely couple of hours walking in the hills around Encamp – a woodland trail leading to a lake where we had a brief dip (brief because we were soon told it wasn’t allowed). If we had more time, we’d have explored the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, a hiker’s paradise of craggy peaks, lush trees and sparkling lakes. It’s certainly a reason to go back.

The gorgeous Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, which Joe didn’t manage to visit on this occasion.

Why you should go
Even if Andorra isn’t the last stop on some concocted decades-old travel list, it’s well worth a visit. The landscapes are, quite simply, stunning; you can spend literally days on end hiking or biking its many mountain trails during the summer. And in winter, it turns into a snowsport paradise, complete with the finest ski slopes in the Pyrenees. If nature isn’t your thing, there’s fascinating history in the form of Romanesque churches, great food – try trinxat, a bubble-and-squeak-like local delicacy – and, of course, duty-free shopping galore. Compared to other European microstates I have visited, like Liechtenstein and San Marino, it’s positively overflowing with things to see and do.

How you can visit
There are no airports in Andorra itself, but you can fly into Barcelona in Spain or Toulouse in France (each around 120 miles away), and catch a bus connection into the country. There are three smaller, slightly closer airports too – Perpignan, Carcassonne and Lleida – but flights to and from these tend to be more limited and/or seasonal. If you want to get out of Andorra La Vella and into the mountains (which you definitely should), you’ll need your own car.

You can read a small selection of the travel content we have written on destinations all across Europe on our projects page. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to keep bang up to date with all the latest travel news.

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