Andorra, the highest capital city in Europe!
Another early wake up this morning… there are no lie ins on this whirlwind tour! I had found information a little vague on transport to Andorra from Toulouse, so I went to the bus station located near the main train station early to get a 10am bus. I didn’t want to miss it so ended up being an hour early.
In the end it was pretty easy to find, you just pay for the bus when you’re getting on and it was well signed posted. I caught up on a bit of sleep for the first part of the journey but wanted to take in the views when we started to climb up into the Pyrenees, the mountain range that separates France from Spain. They speak Catalan in Andorra and I knew a bit more than French so was looking forward to trying it out.
Andorra itself is a small, independent principality which has, unusually, two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the French president. It is probably best known for it’s ski resorts, of which we drove through a few on the way to the capital, Andorra La Vella.
The journey took around 3 hours and was pretty pleasant with the views, I finally arrived in the City centre and headed straight for my cheap ass hostel. On the way it was hard not to notice the giant portrait on the mountainside above the City.
The actual City is a mish-mash of ugly tower blocks and pretty houses dotted around the mountains. The fact that it is completely surrounded by these mountains make the views amazing.
There’s a fast flowing river running right through the centre and I followed this up towards my hotel, passing the impressively futuristic spa Caldea.
The hotel itself was pretty dire, but for the price it was clean and the hosts very friendly, which is all you need really.
As usual I ditched my stuff and went off to explore, following the river back down I passed a great Andorra La Vella sign and somw interesting statues. The air was so fresh and it’s such a clean place, I was starting to love it already. It was great to think I was staying in the highest capital City in Europe too.
Since I had only had a snack for breakfast I was now starving, so being naughty I ended up in a McDonald’s after walking along the busy and modern shopping streets, Andorra is a tax haven and so duty free is meant to be good value here.
My tour of Andorra continued towards the old part of town to see the Casa de la Vall, Andorra’s historical parliament building since 1702 and of course, Sant Esteve, another church.
I walked up into the old town which is actually a lot prettier than the grey 70s looking buildings that the capital seems to love.
The parlient building itself was okay but the terrace in front of it afforded me amazing views of the mountains I would be conquering the next day.
I later found out that there’s a few more lookout type spots you can walk or drive to. One in particular with some interesting statues at the viewpoint.
I found some hiking trails including one that spans the whole country! In all honesty there aren’t a lot of “sights” in Andorra La Vella, it’s more about getting out into the countryside. I decided after 5 days of walking I would treat myself to an evening in Caldea Spa.
For 30E I got access to all the pools and saunas and at first I thought it was maybe a little pricey but the amount of facilities they have is incredible. It’s also nice sitting in a warm jacuzzi looking up at the mountains surrounding you. I imagine in Winter it would be even better.
I enjoyed the Turkish baths the most, hot and steamy but with ice cold water available when it got too much. I would definitely recommend a visit especially if you’ve spent the day hiking or skiiing. There was even a musical water show towards the end of my visit.
I spent an hour or so just wandering the streets, all lit up and people out and about playing games and doing salsa etc. It was really nice and it came across like a very peaceful place to live.
Onwards to the next day and a full days hike!