Andorra La Vella? Andorra? Sounds familiar but where is it?
That was the question we got from most people when we told them of our visit to our three night stop at this tiny nation of just over 78,000 people in the Pyrenees mountains.
Andorra was off our radar. Like most people I had heard the name but couldn’t quite place it.
The husband on the other hand knew of Andorra via the UEFA Euro qualifying rounds.
So when, Andorra showed up on the list of places to see around Barcelona – which we flew into in early December – curiosity about this tiny nation got the better of us and we slashed our time in Spain and booked three nights in Andorra La Vella – the capital of Andorra.
We thought three nights would suffice. What was there to do within 400 sq km (the land size Andorra) anyway? A lot apprently – if you are a nature lover, history buff, winter sports fan or bargain hunter.
It’s capital Andorra La Vella which boasts of being the highest capital city in Europe (1,023m), is a duty free shipping haven – frequented by the French from the north of the Pyrenees and the Spanish from the south.
This unassuming country has a very odd administrative system with its own Parliament, and joint monarchy – the Bishop of Urgell (in Spain) and the President of France.
This circumstance is a spillover from the European feudal system – where in 1268 the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix joined forces to strengthen their hold and resolve dispute over the territory. The Count of Foix subsequently succeeded the French throne.
After the fall of the monarchy in the French Revolution, the French head of state took on the role of co-prince of Andorra together with the Bishop of Urgell.
In 1993, Andorra became a parliamentary democracy and with this has the world’s latest constitution.
The two co-princes play a role of having to ratify laws passed by the Andorran parliament which is made up of two members from 14 parishes in the country.
The quiet farming community is now stretched to accommodate the influx of shoppers and tourist from the region mostly. English is widely spoken here, together with French, Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese.
Andorran hiking trails, that in ancient times used to be horse trails linking villages in the area,are mostly located along the Gran Valira river, lakes and beautiful countryside.
A great summer activity but might be too cold and frosty in winter.
Read more on Christmas in Andorra and the Bon Nadal Christmas Market:
Catalan Christmas tradition: