Andorra is a land locked country situated in the Pyrénées Mountains between Spain and France. The geographical terrain of Andorra comprises of rugged mountains including the highest Coma Pedrosa peak of the region, at a height of 2942 metres. The Country’s prosperous economy is mainly driven by its tourism industry with nearly 10.2 million tourists visiting the place annually. Andorra has a rich Catalan culture which is reflected in its language, folk dances, folk music and various customs followed by the people of the region. In recent times Andorra is emerging as an important and thriving commercial center owing to its advanced banking facilities, and various concessions offered in custom duties and taxes making it a shopper’s delight.
Andora was established by Emperor Charlemagne about 1200 years back as a small state to keep France away from the onslaught of Islamic Moors of Spain. It soon became an autonomous parliamentary co-principality, under the sovereignty of the Bishops of Urgel, Spain and the French State, since 1278, though it has closer association with Spain. Andorra may not be drawn into the vortex of European history as its main ties are limited to Spain and France. However with the recent developments in communication, transportation and tourism, the country is fast emerging from its isolated status. Andorra presently uses the Euro currency though earlier the Spanish Peseta and French Franc was widely in use.
The Casa de la Vall, an old family home built in 1580 functions presently as the Andorran Parliament. It is located in the heart of the old city of Andorra la Vella and stands out for its interesting architecture. The place contains an old cupboard which used to hold national documents of great importance. An interesting feature of the cupboard was that it has seven keys which had to be operated simultaneously by the councilors of the seven constituencies of the country. The other important establishments of the parliament included the courtroom (Sala de la Justicia) and meeting hall of the parliament, (Sala del Consell). The Santa Coloma Church of Andorra constructed in pre-Romanesque architectural style is among the oldest Churches in the country housing the divine image of Our Lady of Mercy. The interesting additions to the church include a bell tower dating back to the 12th century and a portico constructed on the south wall. The Castle of Sant Vicenç d’Enclar, constructed between the 10th and 12 century was the place where the Counts of Urgell resided. It is situated at a height of 1126 meters, overlooking the Santa Coloma Village. Other attractions include the Casa d'Areny-Plandolit Museum and the interesting town of La Cortinada in Ordino.
Andorra is a prime tourist destination contributing greatly to the economy of the nation. Tourists can avail of the numerous summer and winter sport activities that include nature walks, ecotourism, skiing and various winter sports available at the well developed ski resorts that dot the region. The small country offers the best skiing facilities in the Pyrenees. The three main tourist resorts in Andorra include Pas de la Casa and Soldeu in the Grandvalira area and Arinsal which belongs to the Vallnord region. Walking and hiking tours include leisurely walks around the town or countryside as well as more adventurous trails in the higher mountainous region. In winter, skiers flock to Andorra for superb downhill skiing. In the summer serious adrenaline junkies can enjoy paragliding, canyoning, mountain biking, rock climbing or white water rafting.
Tourists wishing to have a first-hand experience of the lively culture of Andorra could benefit by visiting the country during July to September when many festivals are held in various villages and towns. The festivals are basically Catholic religious festivities and include the National Festival of Meritxell which is celebrated on 8th September, and various village festivals such as Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julia de Loria and Escalde –Engordan which are celebrated for three days usually from 15 to 17 of August and September.
Andorra enjoys cool winters and warm summers but there is lot of variation in temperature across the region depending on the altitude of the place. Andorra is covered with snow during the winter months which last for nearly six months. Visitors interested in winter activities such as skiing would prefer to travel to Andorra during the winter months of December to April while the summer months of May to September are best suited for activities such as trekking, rafting and mountain biking.
Due to the mountainous terrain of Andorra, the number of roads entering Andora is limited to the one entering from France and the other from Spain. Andorra can be easily reached within three hours by bus or car, from the border town of Barcelona as well as other cities such as Girona and Toulouse. Apart from road travel, air travel also provides easy connectivity from the many airports in Spain and France to Andorra.