How do you spend a Summer’s day in Andorra? Hike!ย 

Andorra is usually known for it’s skiing, but La Vella being the highest capital City in Europe I knew there must be some great hiking trails. I headed to the tourist centre by the river and gathered the info I required. Stopping off at a supermarket I grabbed supplies and had some very chocolatey croissants to energise me. 

I had been told to take a bus from Carrer de la Valira up towards de la plana. It was pretty easy using basic Spanish to get up there and the driver pointed me in the direction of a path up into the mountains. 

The view from here was pretty good so I couldn’t wait to get higher up. The first part of the hike was a gentle incline through  some shaded woods along a little stream. I had an idea of where to head towards but after hitting a couple of forks in the path I wasn’t quite sure where I was going apart from up. 

I got to a bridge and crossed over a mountain river I had started to follow. This was the first point of meeting some fellow hikers, a family of 5 walking up. They would be they first of only 3 groups I would see in 6 hours. I was completely surrounded by nature, and it was magnificent. I had my headphones in and my indie/folk playlist to keep me company as I continued up a path that was becoming steeper and steeper by the minute. To make matters more interesting it was also getting hotter and hotter. 

I went past an old stone church and farmhouse, the last piece of civilisation I would see for a while, and emerged out of the trees to views that were breathtaking. 

I had already climbed pretty high, following the path that wound up into the wilderness and stopped to re-hydrate with some spicy gazpacho. Another couple of hours into my journey I would be cursing the fact that I thought a 500ml bottle of gazpacho would keep me hydrated for 6 or 7 hours of hiking. Right now though I was thinking how delicious it was as I popped a few olives into my mouth and grabbed a babybel. 

I continued my walk, passing a stream pouring out of a crack in a rock, as it was getting warmer I splashed the ice cold water over my face. It was so refreshing as I began to walk through more forest, the dappled floor ahead of me dancing as the leaves moved slowly in the wind. 

The peacefulness of it all was great but by this point I had been walking for around 2 and a half hours I decided to keep hydrated by filling my empty gazpacho bottle with the fresh mountain water from the river. I wasn’t sure how much longer it was to the top, luckily Google maps was working up here! It said about 2 km longer but now it was getting steeper. I made my way (slowly) up, following the river before emerging into a beautiful mountain meadow.

The last bit of the climb followed the river up but it was now nothing more than a little stream flowing underground beneath me. It was really hard going now, I was tired and had to stop every 5 minutes or so because of the heat. I finally made it to the top, 2200 metres above sea level! 

I was hoping that the mountain but on the map would be similar to one I hiked to in Romania, with food and drinks and somewhere to sit and enjoy the view. Unfortunately it was just a camping hut with some beds, tools and signs of recent use. It would be great fun to camp out there in the Pyrenees with your mates. Exploring the area and having bbqs, another time maybe! 

I spent a little time up here catching my breath and recharging my batteries, knowing it was going to take at least 3 hours to get back down. Once ready I started the long descent down, it wasn’t actually so bad, I managed to emerge from the forest looking over the City and followed the roads down, I stopped at a shop and treated myself to an ice cream and downed a huge bottle of water. 

I followed the river back towards the hotel, going past more statues, and finally making it back after 7 hours of walking. I loved every minute of it and the best part was only seeing about 8 people in total. Great to have all of that nature to yourself, I collapsed on the bed and chilled out for a bit before going downstairs and having a couple of beers at the bar and chatting to the locals. 

At this point it was late but I was starving so I quickly googled nearby restaurants and found a cool sounding burger place called ‘and burger zero’ It was amazing, chilli cheese fries and incredible burger. Not sure if it tasted even better because of the hike though. It’s my last day of travelling tomorrow and another early bus journey down to Barcelona, Spain. 

Andorra, the highest capital city in Europe!ย 

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!