The Andorra Adventure
Andorra is a tiny country sandwiched between Spain and France. It doesn’t offer a ton in the way of tourist attractions besides skiing in the winter and tax free shopping, but I wanted to go anyway. I love experiencing exotic cultures and seeing the non-touristy side of things, but sometimes I need to do some cheesy travel. And that includes occasional list-ticking. Last summer we went to Liechtenstein which turned out to be gorgeous, so why not go to another tiny European country this year?
Getting to Andorra
Since there are no train stations (or airports) in Andorra, we took an early morning train from Carcassonne to Toulouse where we could pick up a bus. While looking for breakfast in the Toulouse train station, we came upon a fast food place called Quick. It was by far the cheapest option and offered the best choices, so we got in line and tried to sort out what we wanted to order. Why was this so complicated? Well, the meal deal on offer included a choice of: 1) coffee, tea, or hot chocolate; 2) orange juice or apple juice; 3) croissant, muffin, or brownie; 4) bacon egg bagel sandwich or brioche; 5) fruit cup or yoghurt. All for 5€!
Not too many companies offer transportation from Toulouse to Andorra (more tourists go from Barcelona) so we booked our tickets ahead of time. But when we got to the bus, the driver told us he didn’t have any record of payment for us. The company we booked with contracts to the company that actually operates the vans, but they never passed our payment along to the van company. We had to pay for our tickets again and try to get a refund later from the original company. It worked, but it was a major hassle, and it was lucky I speak Spanish because the driver spoke no English.
Finding our way around Andorra
After a four and a half hour journey that should’ve taken three and a half due to a forest fire, we finally arrived in Andorra and searched for our hotel. It was run by two helpful and friendly women who gave us a map and suggested things to see in the area. One of their suggestions was a town called Ordino, so we got information about the buses from the tourist office and hopped on a bus.
There wasn’t a lot to do, but the scenery was beautiful. We walked around for an hour or so taking pictures and just enjoying the mountains. On the way up on the bus, we saw a cable car, so that was our next stop. Luckily the bus driver was just as friendly as the women at our hotel, so he made sure we knew when to get off the bus to get to the cable car. Again, not much to do at the top of the mountain, but the views were amazing.
The next morning we walked back to the bus station, passing a pet store that had a chipmunk in a cage. Since we bought our tickets the day before from their ticket office, we were able to board the bus with no problems. The bus wound its way through the mountains of northern Spain until we finally arrived in Barcelona.
I had fun speaking Spanish (or accidentally half German, half Spanish because bits of German are taking over the foreign language section of my brain) in Andorra, although their official language is Catalan. This language is also spoken in Barcelona and the surrounding areas of Catalonia, but Andorra is the only country in the world that has Catalan as its official language. French and Spanish are widely spoken as well. It was interesting being in a place that had signs in three languages and not one was English. But don’t worry about the language if you go, plenty of people speak English too.
If you do visit Andorra, you’ll need to get a bus from either Barcelona or Toulouse. Unless there’s something big going on, you should be able to get a ticket within a few days or even the day you want to go. If you love to shop, ski, or explore nature, this is a great little country to visit.
Read about the 7 smallest countries in Europe!
October 29, 2012 @ 12:29 PM
Never been here but I agree that the scenery looks beautiful!
October 29, 2012 @ 4:57 PM
Thanks Andrea, it really was!
October 29, 2012 @ 12:41 PM
Looks very pretty! And I love the chipmunk in the cage. I used to try to catch them at our house as a child. My dad convinced me if I was fast enough, I could catch one in a Dixie cup and if I did I could keep it as a pet. Clearly I was naive!
October 29, 2012 @ 5:03 PM
That is hilarious! I’m glad you never did catch one, I don’t think it would’ve been too happy with you!
October 29, 2012 @ 9:15 PM
Haven’t been there yet — what beautiful scenery! Great photos.
October 29, 2012 @ 9:54 PM
fotoeins | Henry
October 30, 2012 @ 5:18 PM
So “tiny” and yet so picturesque, the principality! 🙂 Thanks for a look at Andorra!
October 31, 2012 @ 9:01 PM
Thanks Henry! It’s silly but it’s fun to check off the tiny countries.
Adela @ FourJandals
October 30, 2012 @ 9:49 PM
Andorra has always appealed to me just because of its location high in the mountains. Great pics
October 31, 2012 @ 9:01 PM
Thanks Adela! The mountains were really gorgeous. I liked Liechtenstein for the same reason, probably even more.
Jade - OurOyster.com
October 31, 2012 @ 12:21 AM
I love visiting the little obscure countries… but I didn’t realize how complicated it was to get there. I think I would have cried if I was told my ticket was not valid! Good on you for keeping your cool
October 31, 2012 @ 9:05 PM
In theory it’s not so hard to get there, especially if you’re going to and from Barcelona. It’s just annoying that you have to take a bus, and that particular company didn’t work out so well, but at least we got our money back with no problem. I do enjoy visiting the tiny countries for the novelty factor.
October 31, 2012 @ 2:02 PM
Small towns which are unknown have their own charm. No traffic, no pollution and an idyllic life!! This looks fabulous. Great captures.
October 31, 2012 @ 9:07 PM
Thanks Arti! Small unknown town in a tiny country, fun stuff! Though I can’t really say there wasn’t any traffic, especially in the capital city of Andorra la Vella, but it was really pretty.
October 31, 2012 @ 7:52 PM
Andorra is such a beautiful and friendly little place, I’ve been there a few times with family and people never seem to know that it even exists. Great to see a lovely little tale of it here 🙂
October 31, 2012 @ 9:09 PM
Thanks Jessica! That’s cool that you’ve been there a few times. Definitely one of those countries that flies under the radar, even more so than someplace like Liechtenstein.
October 31, 2012 @ 11:33 PM
I love all the little countries in Europe that you forget about – they have their own feel to them that can’t be missed!
November 1, 2012 @ 1:14 PM
Exactly! Andorra definitely feels different from neighboring Spain and France despite being so tiny.
November 9, 2012 @ 9:24 AM
Funny you didn’t know Quick. In Belgium it’s like McDonald’s:-)
Well, ‘like’: groups of friends here often debate about which one is better 🙂
November 9, 2012 @ 3:07 PM
I’m not a fan of McDonald’s, so I’d probably stick with Quick. I don’t think we have those in Germany.
November 24, 2012 @ 4:41 PM
That was a pretty nice little side trip. Really there isn’t a whole lot to do in the summer if hiking isn’t your thing, but still worth going and seeing. Itis actually a lot bigger than I expected it to be.
November 25, 2012 @ 2:12 PM
It’s actually bigger than Malta, which I did not expect. Definitely a pretty country.
February 11, 2016 @ 5:08 AM
The pictures of Andorra make it look like a beautiful side trip that one could make from Barcelona. My wife and I fell in love with Barcelona because of it’s “whimsical” nature. Is Andorra at all like Barcelona in that respect? If it is we might want to visit it on one of our yearly trips to Spain, and how dependable is the transportation to and from Spain.
February 11, 2016 @ 12:29 PM
Hi John! Whimsical…hmmm…I’m not sure I’d call it that, and I wouldn’t really compare it to Barcelona other than the fact that they both speak Catalan. The capital of Andorra was pretty small, kind of busy as you’d expect a city to be, but keep in mind the population is only about 22,000, or about 85,000 for the entire country. To be honest, there isn’t a ton to do unless you’re an outdoorsy person. The town we visited outside the capital was really pretty, and probably would’ve made for some nice hiking if you’re into that. It’s an interesting side trip if you like the idea of checking off quirky little countries (which I do) but otherwise I’m not sure I’d recommend making a special trip. Not the most exciting place. If you do decide to go, I’d recommend spending at least one night simply for the fact that it’s about 3 hours away from Barcelona. We took a bus from Andorra to Barcelona that let us off at the Sants station. I don’t remember exactly which company we used, but this site has some good info: http://www.andorradirectbus.es/en/