As I continue my counting countries series, next up is my country number 43, Andorra. It’s an absolutely tiny country (technically a principality) perched up in the Pyrenees between Spain and France. The mountains lend it some very spectacular views which were the highlight of my visit.
As one of the well known sovereign mini nations, most people have heard of Andorra. Yet how many have visited this tiny country? It is right up there in the Pyrennes mountain range; the whole country is at altitude. Small in area, it has around 77k inhabitants – less than many cities around the world.
The mountain location fascinated me, and so and wanted to visit and check it out. I didn’t really know what to expect. I expected a modern European country, but at altitude. On the practical side, they use Euros which makes life simple. However, on the language side, they seemed to prefer what I originally thought was Spanish but is in fact, Catalan. Which I don’t speak. Having said that I ordered in French in a few places and the right coffee appeared.
Given Andorra’s size and terrain, it has no airports. You have to arrive by road, over some very picturesque mountain passes. There is one main road out to the Spanish side, and Barcelona is around 3 hours away, and another to the French side with Toulouse the same distance. Winter is peak skiing season, with a lot of snow around. It’s snow chains all around, and although the roads occasionally are blocked, they try to keep them clear.
I went at Easter in April, where there was still a lot of snow on higher ground, but the roads were clear and no snow was falling. There are some very limited public transport options to get into Andorra from both Toulouse and Barcelona. However, as the times did not work for me, I opted for a hire car. I felt this would be fine as it was not snowing and I do like driving. Yet I was feeling brave. I was hoping as they are the main roads in and out of the country, the road conditions would be very good.
And what a drive it was! These were real mountain roads. A lot of elevation gain and loss. Switchbacks galore. Tight corners were the norm as the roads wound themselves up and down the mountains. Now given I have an automatic at home, and drive on the left normally in the UK this was at first a little bit scary. I kept my nerve and my speed low and started relaxing and really appreciating the scenery outside the windscreen.
The views themselves were priceless, especially with the snow on the ground. The peaks just jutted up, and roads wound through the valley below them. I was in awe of the scenery around me and stopped in every parking place to gasp at it some more.
Truth be told, I couldn’t find a lot I really wanted to do in Andorra. It’s a skiing mecca, but I don’t ski and it was Spring when I visited. It’s also a shopping hotspot, due to lower sales tax than it’s neighbouring European countries, but I don’t shop. Apparently, the hiking is good in summer, but again as it was spring I was out of season and there was too much snow cover to go for a real hike, given I didn’t have snow gear.
And so I made it a day trip. Driving up into the mountains and just appreciating the scenery was my main aim and I planned on stopping off to see the sights and main towns along the way.
On the way back
Enroute driving back from Andorra to Toulouse, where I was staying, I needed to take a break. And I stumbled across the cutest place in Ax-Les-Thermes. It is such a pretty little town and very scenic. Hot springs were clearly the thing, with a few hot ponds across the town for people to dip there feet in.
So when you come across a hot spring for feet, do you take your shoes off? And step right in? It did look so inviting so I took my footwear and socks off. And tried to put my feet in. But boy were the hot springs hot! It took a lot of temperance to keep my feet in yet everyone else made it look so easy. I think my feet appreciated the hot soak after all the clutch action going up the hills earlier in the day.
To be honest, Andorra was worth visiting for the views alone. I had such fun visiting the principality for the day. I loved being up at altitude in the mountains and seeing such different scenery from my everyday. For me, it was the mountains that made it. I’ll leave you with this awesome view.
Related Posts – Counting Countries Series
- Travels as a Child – Countries 1 to 6
- On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16
- Going East – Countries 17 to 22
- Europe and Beyond – Countries 23 to 27
- The Caribbean and yet more Europe – Countries 28 to 31
- Inca Extravaganza – Countries 32 & 33
- African Extravaganza – Countries 34 &35
- Overlooked Countries- Countries 36 & 37
- Snowy Baltic Tour – Countries 38, 39 & 41
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Do you like to travel to mini-countries?
- Have you been to Andorra?