Andorra, one of the smallest countries in Europe which is sandwiched between Spain and France high up in the Pyrenees is one of the top destinations for hiking, skiing and low tax shopping for visitors but for me it was the drive. Yes, I do love a good old hike but when I come to Andorra I usually go for day trips. Usually I hire a car in the nearby city of Barcelona (a three hour drive away), come up for a drive and explore this amazing country. Having already visited and driven around three times already, here are my top places which I have discovered in this stunning location.
Shopping on the cheap in the capital – Andorra la Vella for me is like a small town with not much to do as it’s mostly business here. I would only recommend briefly stopping here if visitors want to do some shopping on the cheap or find a place to eat. There is an underground car park here but I think I stayed for a total of two hours before heading into the country. There are plenty of places to buy cheap cigarettes, watches and perfumes (but read my notes about customs at the end of the post).
Another place to go shopping is in El Pas de la Casa, where there is plenty of shops here which sells the same sort of goods. It is a better idea to go shopping here instead of the capital as there is plenty of parking but also it’s located in a ski resort so there are mountain views. The whole point of coming to Andorra is to check out the mountains…right?
The CG-2 road – this road runs between the capital Andorra la Vella and El Pas de la Casa on the eastern border. This is the main road which goes through the country but also goes up and down mountains, so in places there are some tight corners to take on. The road itself is actually one of the best kept alpine roads I have driven on. It’s all smooth and the lanes are pretty wide. There are a couple of places to stop on the way to take in views or even park up and go for a short hike. Most of the ski resorts are found up here in places like Soldeu where in the summer the bar and restaurants are still open.
Eating Andorra’s sausages – after all that driving and exploring the country, don’t forget to check out the local meats. Sausages seem to be the main thing around here and I had a great chance to try out a plate full in a restaurant called L’Era d’en Jaume in a village called Llorts (north of the small town of Ordino). This quiet alpine restaurant is surrounded by the smaller mountains in this part of the region and along the fast flowing river. I highly recommend this place as most of the items on the menu have the local sausage. At the time I couldn’t decided what to have so I decided to try a whole plate full of sausages, all different types, sizes and tastes.
After a plate full of sausages I decided to take a walk around the village just to burn off the food a little bit and also to take in the beautiful views surrounding Llorts.
Points to know for doing a road trip to Andorra…..
I hired a car from Girona airport but as the Costa Brava in Spain is a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of other car rental places to hire vehicles from such as Barcelona’s El Prat airport or even Perpignan airport in France.
Allow yourself time to get there and back, it’s not a short drive as the country is located high up in the Pyrenees mountains. From Girona or Barcelona, I would allow between three to four hours (especially if taking in the beautiful scenery and taking photographs on the way).
I would say summertime is the best time to go as there is more sunlight hours in the day. I have done this in the winter time but I felt I was rushing my trip that day. It is best to depart early in the morning and leave about ninety minutes before the sun completely sets as it isn’t funny driving in the mountains in the dark (and it’s even worse when it’s heavy rain or snowfall).
There are two ways of doing a road trip to Andorra and a circular trip can be done. For example, starting from Girona, head west to the town of Vic before turn northwards at Manresa and then follow signs to Andorra and this enters the country at the southern entrance. Then when leaving the country, exit on the eastern side near Pas de la Casa and follow signs for Prades and Perpignan (which are in France) and then travel south on the A9 into Spain and this will land up going pass Girona and Barcelona (or if you like, carry on and end up in beautiful locations like Valencia or even Malaga which is over 1000km away!). However on that A9 highway, it is a toll road so make sure you have some cash or a credit card nearby.
At the country entry and exit points there maybe custom checks in place so when seeing the police vehicles, be prepared to stop and get out and show them what items you have. Andorra is a tax haven (as we call it in England) and the price of goods is a lot cheaper than in Spain and France.
Andorra uses the Euro currency but is not part of the European Union, so make sure you are carrying your passport just in case (if it helps, the country is also in the Schengen agreement).
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