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October 14th, 2023

Got a short one for you today – enjoy!

Andorra, officially the Principality of Andorra, is a sovereign landlocked country and microstate on the Iberian Peninsula, in the eastern Pyrenees, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south. Believed to have been created by Charlemagne, Andorra was ruled by the count of Urgell until 988, when it was transferred to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Urgell. The present principality was formed by a charter in 1278.

It is currently headed by two co-princes: the bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain and the president of France.  This peculiarity makes the president of France, in his capacity as prince of Andorra, an elected monarch, although he is not elected by a popular vote of the Andorran people. The politics of Andorra take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy with a unicameral legislature, and of a pluriform multi-party system. The prime minister is the chief executive.

Andorra is the sixth-smallest state in Europe, with an area of 468 square kilometres (181 sq mi) and a population of approximately 79,034. The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group closely related to Catalans. Andorra is the world’s 16th-smallest country by land and 11th-smallest by population. Its capital and largest city, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 metres (3,356 feet) above sea level. The official language is Catalan, but Spanish, Occitan, and French are also commonly spoken.

Tourism in Andorra brings an estimated 10.2 million visitors to the country annually. Andorra is not a member state of the European Union. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993.

Blue and red are the colors of France, yellow and red are those of Spain, and together they reflect Franco-Spanish protection. The arms combine the arms of the bishopric of Urgel, the counts of Foix, Catalonia, and Bearn. The motto is “United strength is stronger”.

Currency: the Euro – $1.05 USD $1.44 CDN

Diesel: €1.467 – about $5.84 USD per gallon

License Plate: non EU – AND

Beer: there are a few craft beers in this country and we tried two:

We crossed the border from France to Andorra about 10:30 in them morning on a Saturday.   The traffic had been stop and go for a while through the twisty mountain highway and we couldn’t ever why and then it was darn slow through most of the “principality” once we began to hit small towns.  The first town when crossing is Pas de la Casa – the fourth highest town in Europe at 2400 m  / 7874’.  The weather was overcast and not warm aat all as we were up so high.

There seemed to be a large amount of people and cars in this town and we thought maybe it was for shopping?  Once we got out of Pas de la Casa, the traffic began to move and we found a gas station right outside town next close to a race track which you can drive your own car on!  They had really cheap diesel at €1.467! – that’s like thirty to forty cents cheaper than in France!

Then we hit another traffic jam but this time it was horses – see photo above and here they made it across the road:

The road is full of switchbacks and lots of mountain views and some ski resorts (the main tourist attraction here) and you could see they had their snow measuring sticks already out! While the weather wasn’t great, maybe mid to high teens C today / 60’s F, it was dry and not windy.

As we began to approach the small towns and village, while cute, traffic was crawling but still moving for the most part.  This 50 km / 30 mi we wanted to do today was going to take a long time.  As we approached the turn for Ordino, we opted not to go  due to the traffic – it would have just been to see the town, not much else.  We were concerned we’d have an issue getting a parking spot before our reservation at the spa.  We also hoped to have time to eat before going over and enjoy a local beer.

We had a parking lot in Andorra la Vella (the capital and main city) in mind that we’d found on park4night as one of the few that had motorhome spots and despite following not only our GPS and our phone, but the road signs to “P9A” as the lot was called, the access was closed!  Fran found another way to get there and as we approached it looked like covered parking – this can have a height issue but Doug could see motorhomes inside so we went for it.  The signage indicated that there were 71 spaces left of 500 so we were hopeful.  However, upon entering the laneways were narrow but Doug managed and Fran ran out to get to the end of the lot to try and hold a spot.  There were several at the back and we found a good one that had a good overhang so we weren’t taking two spots.

We grabbed our bags with towels, swimsuits etc. and began to walk the 1.4 km / .80mi to the spa planning to find lunch enroute as we had about 1.25 hours to explore the city before our reserved time. It was an okay city, high end shops etc. and not a lot of “eye candy”.

We found a small bar/restaurant that served beer and pizza and got a table.  Unfortunately they had no local beer but the thin crust pizza was amazing!

We finished the walk to the Caldea Spa.  It’s huge and there’s plenty to experience with midday tickets we purchased.   We ended up spending about 2.5 hours of our three hours and we did almost everything our ticket included.

There was a large indoor pool with Jacuzzis raised above it, an outdoor “lagoon” Jacuzzi area, an Icelandic section with two shallow pools; one of ice cold water and one hot; a hamam, 2 saunas, aqua massage, hot marble benches, a polar passage (freezing cold water), indo roman baths (the best part as they were the hottest) and an outdoor panoramic lagoon which we didn’t want to get in the huge line up for.

We paid €32 each for the three hour entry.  You are given a bracelet which gets you entry and opens and closes your locker.  The change rooms are unisex but the showers are not.  They were over 900 lockers!  The place was busy but not so over crowded that you felt uncomfortable at all.  There are four session times and we had the middle of the day one (the cheapest) but you can come for morning, afternoon, and evening as well with the latter being the most expensive as they put on a light show apparently.  Naturally there are extras you can purchase like massages and treatments and there is a restaurant above the main pool.  You can rent bath robes and latex footwear as well.

this was the building from outside:

and this is the main entrance inside:

We did not want to carry our phones around so have no photos from inside but we pulled these off the internet:

We do not regret doing this at all; it was nice to experience all it had to offer but our one small complaint would be the water was not hot enough!  The indoor roman baths (first pic above) were 36C / 97F (and there was a small pool to cool off in at 14C / 57 F) but the main pools were barely even 30C.

We felt SO clean after this experience and quite relaxed.  Enroute back to Minou, we stopped to get some cold drinks and some local beer to try later.  Fran had found a camping aire south of the main city and we didn’t want to waste too much before getting there since it was already 3:30.  When leaving the parking the exit was rather narrow and on an angle; unfortunately, we hit the piece of the trim above the wheel well and cracked it in once place.  (Doug was able to use gorilla tape on it and we hope it holds till Morocco!)

Parking cost us €9 and the driving again was slow to get the 10 km / 6 mi to the spot.  When we got there we couldn’t believe our eyes – at least 80 campers/motorhomes were jammed in there.  It’s a large lot behind a shopping mall that offers water and dumping services for RV’s free.  Part of the lot was cordoned off so that didn’t help but we managed to find a spot on the end of a row (there was still one smaller spot beside us that a van could fit in).

We passed through two tunnels today – both in Andorra.

Next morning we were up and at ‘em on the early side after what turned out to be a relatively quiet night despite the numbers of other RV’s.

We crossed the border into Spain about 8:20 am.

We drove a whopping 49 km / 30 mi in Andorra.


Fun Facts about Andorra:

1.     Andorra produces a lot of tobacco. It takes up a lot of what little farming space exists there. There used to be a cigarette factory in Andorra, and because of its status as a tax haven, you can purchase cigarettes there much cheaper than you can in Spain or France.

2.     Andorra is also one of the few places in Europe where you can still smoke indoors in public places.

3.     Andorra is the only country in the world with Catalan as its official language.

4.     Andorra has never been in a war in almost 1,000 years. Andorra has no national bank and has never had its own currency.  Andorra was neutral in WWII

5.     Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe at an elevation of 1,023 meters (3356 feet),

6.     Andorra has the most tourists per capita in the world. With over 10,000,000 visitors per year and a population of only 77,000, Andorra has the most visitors in the world per capita. The vast majority of the visitors to Andorra are Spanish and French citizens who go there to shop and purchase fuel at cheaper prices.

 7.     Despite having been represented at every Olympic games since 1976, Andorra has never won an Olympic medal.