Landlocked between Spain and France, Andorra lies in the Pyrenees, a range of mountains in southwest Europe. Especially favourite among skiers and hikers, Andorra offers scenic views, good skiing conditions and hiking paths, as well as unique architecture.
Andorra has been governed by both France and Spain throughout the centuries, but became an independent democratic state in the late 20th Century. However, the country is a co-principality with the bishop of Urgell and the president of France. Andorra’s culture is thus strongly influenced by its two neighbours, but especially by Catalan culture, what is reflected in its local folklore, architecture and art. The official language of Andorra is Catalan, while Spanish and French are also commonly spoken. The country also boasts one of world’s highest life expectancies.
Andorra La Vella is the capital city of the city-state of Andorra. Located in a mountain gorge, the capital is characterised by beautiful settings, as seen in the paved, hand-railed illuminated paths of Rec del Sola and Rec de l’Obac, which allow for easy exploration. Many mediaeval structures adorn the city, such as the Church of Sant Esteve and Church of Sant Andreu, as well as the largest medieval Bridge of la Margineda. However, the oldest structure in the country is the Church of Santa Coloma, dating from the 9th Century. Casa de la Vall, the seat of parliament, and its town square are also popular tourist destinations, as well as Europe’s largest recreational spa at Caldea.
The capital is surrounded with many small villages which now sport winter resorts, including the Vallnord Ordino-Arcalis and Pal-Arinsal ski resorts, and the largest ski resort in Andorra, Granvalira, which encompasses Soldeau and Pas de la Casa. In warmer seasons, Andorra is a paradise for hikers, who flock to such mountain resorts as Soldeau and Arinsal. The most popular peaks in the country include the 2,888m Pic de Sanfons, Pic de Medecourbe and Pic de Coma Pedrosa, all of which offer breathtaking views of nearby mountains and lakes.
The economy of Andorra relies basically on tourism. However, the country is also a tax haven with a highly developed banking sector. Two major motorways lead to Andorra from France and Spain. The nearest towns to Andorra include Toulouse and Barcelona, in France and Spain, respectively, while the closest airports include Perpignan and Toulouse-Blagnac in France, and Barcelona airport. Plans to build an airport in Andorra are being considered.