Andorra | Photo Stories
I’d only really heard about Andorra in passing decades ago. I knew nothing about this tiny, isolated country back then. So when a work opportunity takes us there I’m both surprised and intrigued. What was to unfold for us was the discovery of a hidden gem of incredible beauty.
We enter the country through its southern border from Spain, taking a pleasurable drive along switchback roads following the ups and ups of the high Pyrenees.
It is late spring when we arrive, just as the season opens into full bloom. The air is thin and fresh, at an altitude of over 3000 metres above sea level at its highest. And views of deep, deep valleys cutting through rugged mountains, rushing streams and lush, flower-covered meadows are a pleasure to see after months of grey skies and drizzle in the UK.
Andorra is a landlocked micro-nation nestled snuggly between Spain and France, barely known outside of Europe. Inaccessible by train or air save by private helicopter, this mountainous, co-sovereign state, takes about 3 hours or so to reach by road from either Barcelona or Toulouse.
An escape from the intense Mediterranean heat in summer and a winter playground from November to April, the principality has flourished in a relatively short time, and has done well to shake off its impoverish, smuggler past. Andorra boasts the largest high altitude hot spring spa in Europe, as well as being ranked 15th in the world for its winter sports resorts with an abundance of outdoor pursuits; skiing, hiking, pro-cycling and mountain biking just for starters.
Much like other micro-states, tourism is its main source of income, with relaxed banking services and very low tax rates on offer plus, of course, duty-free shopping in the country’s capital, Andorra la Vella which, is one of its biggest draws. But it would be a shame to go there just for the duty-free. Andorra’s real treasure is its astonishing natural beauty that’s hard to put into words. You’ll have to go there and see for yourself.