Welcome to Andorra in Summer
Andorra is a tiny principality situated on the Spanish and French border, in the heart of the Pyrenees mountains. A beautiful, lush green country in summer, with a tranquil serenity, miles from the hustle and bustle of city life.
When arranging our hiking, white-water rafting and cycling trip to Andorra, we immediately hit a problem. Upon first glance, travelling to Andorra isn’t the easiest. It doesn’t have an airport. What kind of country doesn’t have an airport?
Flying into the surrounding regions is the only way to go about it. Either Barcelona or Toulouse offer the most in terms of onward transfers and ease but also, Girona and Carcassonne can offer inexpensive flights if you can organise the onward journey from there. The local airport for Andorra La Seu is too small for international services.
I sighed as I booked, thinking about the arduous transfer but I shouldn’t have…
Kate and I flew into Lyon and grabbed the transfer provided by our tour and were on the road in moments. We drove down a quiet highway, enjoying the rolling French countryside and passing chateaus and then it hit us – the Pyrenees mountains rise like giants with gleaming snow caps in the distance.
The Pyrenees Mountains
A few moments later and we start to wind our way up the mountain passes and soon we are standing on the shoulders of giants.
To travel to a country without an airport is quite a novel experience and it’s one I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoy. Besides, we were here to see the countryside, get back to nature and trek and bike all over the Pyrenees mountains in peace and I cannot recall hearing one screaming jet overhead during my week here.
Soldeu was to be our base – a bustling skiing resort in winter but now a serene hillside town, perched 1700 meters in the mountains. On one side is the famous crossing ski slopes that acts as the logo for the Andorra ski resorts and the other side, the lush green pastures of Vall D’Incles.
The trip we had gone on was an Adventure trip provided by Intrepid Tours but I would like to point out that this is not a sponsored post and the opinions are all our own.
We were here to hike, bike and raft our way around Andorra whilst staying at the Hotel Roc de Sant Miquel in Soldeu.
Doing the trip this way gave us the best way with which to see Andorra’s breath-taking scenery. Cycling in Andorra is so much fun, as we were taking mostly downhill roads and tracks. Hiking in Andorra is a little more challenging, as that is mostly up before you are able to come back down.
I would say that you need to do a little training or be a regular exerciser to be able to handle this kind of trip. If you could walk 10 miles or so in one day, you should be fine.
Tip: It is advisable to download the Andorra Active Tourism App if you are hiking solo in Andorra. It features many great routes and also has a GPS tracking safety feature.
The accommodation was a chalet style property. Simple but exactly the kind of accommodation to suit a trip of this nature.We had a private room with simple shower and clean facilities.
There was a buffet breakfast and dinner included each day. For lunch, we had the option to buy a packed lunch from the hotel or make our own. There was a bar with reasonably priced drinks in the evening.
Whilst our chalet was of two star quality – simple and rustic – there are many hotels up to five-star quality in Soldeu and beyond. There are also quite a few backpackers hostels with good value dorm rates, all over Andorra.
You could also stay in a mountain refuge hut, if the mood should take you. Get back to nature whilst sleeping in splendid isolation.
There are only 77k people living in Andorra and many are immigrants. As a result the national language is a mix of mainly French or Spanish but you might also get away with English in resturants and hotels.
Our hosts were Nuri and Nick who ran the chalet and acted as tour guides for the trip. The hospitality we received was excellent and added a warm and friendly feel to the trip.
Nuri – A Catalan lady who enjoying long-distance trail running for a hobby – was the hiking guide, as we took on some mildly challenging walks up the steep mountains surrounding Soldeu.
Nick – An English immigrant who moved there to be a ski instructor – was mostly in charge of the hospitality and even pulled out his guitar one night to serenade us with a friend.
What to See in Andorra La Vella
Aside from hiking and cycling in Andorra, we spent a day at Naturlandia Pyrenean Park – an adventure park with go carts, zip lines, an extremely long toboggan track and a great wildlife park. We saw lots of wolves, deep, piglets and even bears here. The rides were mainly for kids but the woodland toboggan track was great adult fun.
Tip: Leave a large gap between the person in front on the toboggan track, so you don’t have to keep stopping and starting.
Just outside the town of Canillo, you’ll find the breath-taking Mirador Roc del Quer – the finest view-point in the whole country. Stepping out on to the transparent floor is a little challenging if you don’t like heights but you don’t have to walk all the way out on the plinth, if you have any fears. The views are still great from the hillside.
In addition to these, there are many other outdoor pursuits you could do, including horse riding, ziplining and more. Check out the Andorra tourism board website for details.
If you are looking for areas to stay with a little more in the way of services, the towns in Andorra pretty much go from smallest to largest as you travel south through the country.
Soldeu is a picturesque town with just a few shops and restaurants open during the summer. It’s quiet during this time but the tranquility was lovely.
Next after Soldeu is Canillo with its ice rink and swimming pool. There are a few more shops and bars here. It’s a nice town with pleasant locals.
Next comes Encamp with its huge cable car ski lift for winter sports. It’s a good-sized town with plenty of nice eateries, cafes and bars.
Finally, Andorra La Vella is the capital and the country’s shopping mecca – we were able to buy Botanist Gin from Scotland for half the price of at home.
Head here for heavily discounted shopping but also the old town. It’s lovely architecture on the backdrop of the mountains is well worth a visit.
Listen: Check out our French music playlist, as the perfect soundtrack to travelling in Andorra.
Andorra might be a skiing mecca in winter and it looks like a prime place to hit the slopes BUT it should not be forgotten in summer, where it was equally amazing for adventure sports and scenery, off the beaten track.
We used Intrepid Tours to book our trip and everything was done for us. It made it really easy to cram in two big hikes, two days downhill cycling, one day rafting and a free day which we spent at Naturlandia and in Andorra La Vella.
You could certainly try backpacking here under your own steam. You probably won’t be able to get as much done in a short space of time as we did but it would give you a little more independence.
Andorra would also be excellent for a driving or camper van holiday. The lush green surroundings, the wonderful mountain roads and off-the-beaten track nature all make it an ideal touring country.