I`m writing this in what I temporarily call my office in Andorra, and as I write I have a glass of cava (courtesy of the hotel) and the most amazing view of the ski slopes of Soldeu, part of the Grandvalira complex, the largest complex of ski mountains in southern Europe.
I have to admit that it is impossible not to be inspired by such a place. Andorra is an independent principality on the border of France and Spain, and is basically composed of Andorra – La Vella, the capital, a small town full of shops and restaurants (Andorra is a tax free country, which means that all shops are Duty Free – great for shopping), and the surrounding mountain complex with over 150 ski slopes that add up to 240 skiable km – there are options for all skill levels, tastes and ages.
In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Grandvalira’s slopes complex offers several other activities to do alone or with the family. One of the most entertaining is the “Mushing“, which is the snow sled pulled by dogs. I believe that dogs by themselves are already amazing, so being taken on a ride in the snow at high speed by them is one of the coolest things I’ve done there. I highly recommend for all ages! You can choose to lead or take a ride, I chose to drive because I found it more fun!
Another cool activity for those who love adrenaline but are not so coordinated to ski – or simply want to taste something different – is to rent snowmobiles. Snowmobiles are like jet skis with skis that slide in the snow and at first it is good to take it slow because as the snow does not offer much friction, it is easy to go too fast and not be able brake in time. But they are easy to ride and the feel is wonderful, I loved it and recommend it!
To speak about Andorra without saying a little about architecture and gastronomy would be a flaw. Typical mountain town, Andorra is made by stone buildings with wood and glass details (so you won`t miss the views!). A cozy and rustic yet elegant style that invites you to stroll through the city centers of the different ski resorts.
When the cold is too much, Andorra offers thousands of excellent bars and restaurants. In the high season, a mandatory activity after a day in the mountains is to sit in one of the several terraced bars that overlooks the snow and have a beer to relax (or a wine, since being on the border between France and Spain, Good and affordable wines do not lack!).
One of the most popular bars is the terrace bar of the Hotel Hermitage, called Sol i Neu (sun and snow). With panoramic views of the mountains and next to the lifting of Soldeu, it is the scene of parties and performances by Dj`s to liven up the après ski.
The Sport Hotels Resort & Spa is the largest hotel complex in Andorra, with 3 hotels of different categories (all 4 and 5 stars) and a sensational Spa that I recommend! The Spa is free for those staying at the Hermitage, which is the 5-star hotel Gran Lujo, but those who stay in the others of the network pay a lower value and even those who do not stay with them can enter paying a fee that entitles 3: 30h of use of the Spa and the water circuit, besides a menu of aesthetic treatments available. A paradise for aching bodies after a snow experience! That’s what I was doing a few hours before I wrote this text, and I’ll leave some pictures here for you …
Last but not least, I could not not talk about … Food! Those who know me, they know I consider gastronomy a fundamental part of any trip. Eating well is a pleasure that combines perfectly with tourism and the Guiri Insider supports gastronomic tourism. A great option to combat the cold in Andorra is the Refugi Alpí`s fondue, in the center of Andorra – A Vella, with a good wine to accompany. In addition to the traditional cheese fondue, there is also meat, chocolate and the raclette, a Swiss specialty of melted cheese. This is one of my favourite places to have dinner, but at high season is better to reserve a table because the place can get booked.
Andorra is about 2:30 hours by car from Barcelona, and it is a tour that I recommend, whether you are a sports person or not. With so many activities, there is no shortage of things to do. Shopping, good food and drinks, spas, hot springs, Andorra is a complete city that everybody will love!