Overview

Grandvalira
Grandvalira © M.Campo

Andorra is a tiny dot on the map. An independent principality dwarfed by France and Spain, it is most famous for being a tax haven and is a popular tourist destination peppered with summer and winter resorts.

Following centuries of struggle between the counts and the bishops of Urgell for the surrounding valleys, Andorra came into being in 1278 when the Spanish bishop of La Seu d'Urgell and the French House of Foix established co-sovereignty of the area.

The French and Spanish continued to tussle over the region and it was only in 1993 that it officially became an independent state, obtaining its first written constitution. With this mixed history, it is no surprise that true Andorrans are a minority in their own country. Spaniards, French, and Portuguese make up the majority of the population.

The country occupies 181 square miles (468 sq km) and is mountainous and beautiful, dotted with lakes, forests, and three major rivers, along with the typical flora and fauna of the Pyrenees. Its principal and most populated town is Andorra la Vella with several museums and monuments to explore, including the Miniature Museum, a perfume museum, and an ethnographic museum.

However, the principal reason for visits to Andorra is for the excellent skiing. The country boasts several major ski resorts, including Grandvalira (formerly called Soldeu/El Tartar) and Vall Nord (formerly Arcalis/Ordino), which cater for all types of skiers.

But if skiing is not for you, Andorra also offers plenty of hiking opportunities, horse riding, and golfing. You can also enjoy relaxing in some fine restaurants and cafes, and, of course, partake in some excellent duty-free shopping.