Andorra: I Go There So You Won’t Have To (2023)

Posted on May 27, 2007December 2, 2013 by Rick Steves

I like standing high on a ridge looking into a rugged mountain-ringed basin, where nature cradles an ancient tribe. Located in the former Yugoslavia, it’s looking down on the royal city of Cetinje, the historic capital of Montenegro — Europe’s newest country (independent for about one year)…a land where you expect to see short men with long beards. It’s so humble that when the Turks came in to rape, pillage and plunder, they decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble, rolled up their carpets and went home. (I’ll be there later in this blog.)

A few days ago, my TV crew and I drove and drove to finally stand high in the Pyrenees Mountains, which separate France and Spain. Before us lay the principality of Andorra.

Europe’s midget countries have an undeniable curiosity factor. In Europe’s tiny derby, the Vatican is the big little winner. Then comes Monaco…San Marino…Liechtenstein…Malta (which, while an island in the Mediterranean, is considered part of Europe) and finally — measuring in at about 13 miles by 13 miles, with 80,000 people — Andorra. (We’re now four-fifths finished with a TV show featuring these little guys. Only Liechtenstein — also later in this blog — remains.) All of these countries would fit easily into Europe’s next smallest country…the relatively vast Luxembourg.

Andorra has a long history. In their national anthem, Andorrans sing of Charlemagne rescuing their land from the Moors in 803. In the 13th century, Spanish and French nobles married. They agreed that the principality would be neither Spanish nor French. This unique feudal arrangement survives today. And, while they have co-princes from other countries (the president of France and a Spanish bishop), locals stress that Andorra is 100 percent independent.

Until little more than a generation ago, Andorra was an impoverished and isolated backwater. Puny 12th-century churches and their stony bell towers stand as strong as the Pyrenees around them.

Recently, Andorrans have become wealthy — thanks to the same mountains that kept them so isolated and poor for so long. Hiking and skiing are big business, stoking a building boom. Huge Vail-like ski-condos, built of perfectly crafted rustic stone, both contrast and match the historic stone buildings they now dwarf and outnumber.

(Video) Dora Is Acting Up.

And Andorra employs those special economic weapons so popular among Europe’s little states: easygoing banking, duty-free shopping and low, low taxes. The principality has morphed from a rough-and-tumble smugglers’ haven to a high-tech, high-altitude shoppers’ haven — famous for its bargain-basement prices. More than 10 million visitors — mostly Spaniards and French, enduring famous traffic jams — pour in yearly to buy luxury goods, electronics and other goodies while avoiding their high taxes back home.

The country’s capital and dominant city is Andorra la Vella. On my first visit here back in the 1970s, I remember it felt like a big Spanish-speaking Radio Shack. Today, it retains the charm of a giant shopping mall. I didn’t tell the tourist board, who kindly helped us film, but if people ask, “Why Andorra?” I have to answer, “I go there so you won’t have to.”


  1. A Change Of Pace

    It’s nice to see places that we don’t know being covered by you Rick.

    Obviously you can’t cover every single town and village but new and interesting places are nice to see as we are so familiar with many of your favourites.

    Last September I went to Bad Bentheim in Germany just over the Netherland’s border.
    A poster on the Graffiti Wall had mentioned it and I was intrigued.

    (Video) A Tiny Heaven On Earth Without Prisons, Armies Or Their Own...

    It was a very late day visit but I got the flavour and it was nice to see small town in Germany with no tourists at the time and just a nice easy going feeling as if you really were a local.

  2. Rick,

    Two things happened this past year: 1) After long illness, I became well enough to begin to plan, with my wife, ideas for possible trips to Europe and 2) we accidentally came across you when watching a PBS pledge drive.

    Since then, we’ve been buying your CD’s, we have you programmed into our DVR and watch every one, and we have begun buying our baggage and other items at your online store.

    And I’ve been prowling your website.

    Everything has been wonderful. You fill our hours with pleasure, with your intelligence, wit, and joy of traveling, and you fill our minds with the promise of adventures to come.

    At age, 65, I’ve been given a reprieve, and synchronicity has given us a good teacher (the student must have been ready).

    Gifted teachers are rare and precious. Thank you for arriving at just the right time.

    Just wanted to let you know.

    (Video) the top 20+ MUST WATCH HULU TV shows & movies

    Enjoy your trip.

    Bill and Dalia

  3. Thanks for a peek into Andorra. :)

  4. Outside of Andorra la Vella, I really enjoyed the time I spent in Andorra, especially the hiking. Well worth a visit, imo.

  5. As we headed from France toward Andorra, we crossed a high mountain pass, and were in heavy fog. It had been a long day, and I was driving enthusiastically as if the day has just started, but Emmy was very tired. Andorra seems to exist in deep valleys, with some towns hanging on the adjacent hills, with only one narrow crowded highway for all the traffic. There was a campground right in downtown Encamp, so we checked in early so Emmy could rest, and I could go walking in the rain. There is a building boom in town, with large cranes that can transfer building materials from the main street, clear across the buildings in this block, to the new buildings in the next block. We were told these are vacation and second homes for people in other countries. (1980)

  6. Where did the geese farm blog go? I thought it interesting.

  7. My friend and I were actually staying at the Art Hotel and noticed you working with your crew over breakfast. If you hadn’t been working, I would have stopped over to say hello.

    I would agree with your comments in regards to Andorra resembly a large shopping center. We can also attest to the traffic problems in that we experienced an accident within 5 minutes of arriving into the city. The police were very kind and we gave the locals an opportunity to laugh at a couple of tired tourists who had just arrived.

    Instead of shopping, however, my friend and I spent our time hiking in the mountains. The scenery was beautiful and the paths were in good condition and well-marked. Although, their definition of an easy trail and mine were somewhat different.

    (Video) Andor | Luthen Rael’s Monologue | Disney+

    In planning future trips, I wouldn’t make the effort to drive back to Andorra should I return to southern France and Barcelona again. I believe we could find some great hiking elsewhere.

  8. Perhaps eighteen years ago we traveled through Andorra on our way to Spain. We expected an idyllic mountain town compete with sheep and shepards. What we got was more like Reno–no, more like Winnemuca–and I’m not planning second trips to either–ever. So, thank you Rick, for also letting your loyal readers know where not to go!

  9. You might want to go up to Triesenberg when you’re in Liechtenstein. If the weather is nice you’ll have a nice view of the valley down below. They also speak the Walser dialect there, like the folks in Gimmelwald.

Comments are closed.


What is so special about Andorra? ›

Andorra is known for its vast natural parks, mind-blowing ski slopes, and high-end, duty-free shopping. Andorra is also famous for having the highest capital in Europe, being the only co-principality in the world, and the only country with Catalan as its official language.

What's the story with Andorra? ›

Andorra was originally created as a buffer state by the French leader Charlemagne during the Middle Ages. It was meant to keep the Muslim Moors out of France. The Andorrans were to fight off the Moors and protect France. In return Charlemagne would grant them a charter.

Is Andorra more French or Spanish? ›

Languages of Andorra
LanguageAt homeOutside home
2 more rows

What language does Andorra speak? ›

Catalan, known in the Valencian Community and Carche as Valencian, is a Western Romance language. It is the official language of Andorra, and an official language of three autonomous communities in eastern Spain: Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands.

What country owns Andorra? ›

Since then, Andorra has been an independent country, separate from Spain and France. The current heads of state (the co-princes) are Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic (who for historical reasons inherited the title from the Count of Foix) and the Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell, Joan Enric Vives.

Why do people visit Andorra? ›

Architecture of Andorra was swayed by the other foreign countries. Although it is a small country, there is a lot of authentic stuff, and you can see the evidence of pre-roman and Romanesque time. The oldest churches of Andorra are known for their simple architecture and small size.

What do you call people from Andorra? ›

The Andorran people are a Romance ethnic group of originally Catalonian descent.

Why do people in Andorra live so long? ›

Lifestyle factors, a safe environment and access to excellent health care are the main contributors to an exceptionally high life expectancy rate in Andorra. A close-knit sense of community among Andorrans also contributes to a happy and healthy way of life in the European country.

What religion is Andorra culture? ›

Today, approximately 99.1 percent of the de facto population belong to the Catholic faith. There is a small minority of Protestants (0.35 percent), some Jews, and followers of other religions. The increased immigration of recent years has led to a slight rise in thenumber of Muslims and other religions.

Can I speak English in Andorra? ›

Is English widely spoken in Andorra? Although just 2% put English as their mother tongue, English is also a common language in Andorra, given that the principality is a hub for tourism. The tourism industry is estimated to make up 80% of the economy, so it's important for people to understand and speak English.

Is Andorra expensive? ›

To summarize, Andorra is not expensive to visit compared to most other places in Western Europe.

What ethnicity are people from Andorra? ›

Andorrans, who are ethnically Catalans, are a minority in their own country; Spanish, French, and Portuguese residents make up 67.7% of the population. Pop. ±% p.a.

Can you drink Andorra water? ›

The tap water in Andorra is perfectly safe to drink.

What do they drink in Andorra? ›

Drink in Andorra

Typical beers such as Damm from Barcelona and San Miquel are the main ones served in bars and Andorra even has its own wines, although the wine cantinas are full of delicious French and Spanish wines.

What is the traditional dessert of Andorra? ›

Crema de Catalan is known as the Catalan Crème brulee, this custard version has a citrus twist. It is pretty easy to make you just need to watch it closely. Crema de Catalan is believed to be Europe's oldest custard dessert.

How do you say hello in Andorra? ›

it is important for you to know that the ability to speak Catalan is compulsory for certain jobs.
Principality of AndorraPrincipat d'Andorra
Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening.Bon dia. Bona tarda. Bona nit
Goodbye. See youAdéu. Fins ara.
29 more rows

Is Andorra a good place to live? ›

Citizen security. In terms of citizen security, Andorra has extremely low crime rates, almost non-existent, which makes it one of the safest countries in the world. Its low crime rate places Andorra in the top 5 of the safest countries in the world to live and for its visitors.

Is Andorra a Catholic country? ›

Few official statistics are available on religion; traditionally, approximately 90% of the population has been Catholic. The population consists largely of immigrants from Spain, Portugal, and France, with full citizens representing less than 36% of the total. The immigrants are also generally Catholic.

Does Andorra have an airport? ›

In fact, Andorra doesn't have an airport, due to its location high up in the mountains. However, there are other possibilities for those who want to travel to the Principality by plane.

Why is Andorra cheap? ›

Everything is cheaper in the shops of the Principality. This is due to the government's tax policy, from which every consumer benefits. Overall, average consumer prices in Andorra are well below the average prices of other Western European countries.

Is Andorra a Hispanic country? ›

Andorra's official language is Catalan (Spanish and French are also spoken); its institutions are based in Catalonian law, and a large proportion of the Spanish immigrants (or their descendants) in Andorra are Catalan.

Is Andorra a US ally? ›

The United States and Andorra enjoy excellent relations based on common values including the promotion of democracy and human rights. Andorra and the U.S. cooperate on a wide range of foreign policy issues. Andorra retains as its heads of state two co-princes — the Bishop of Urgell (Spain) and the French president.

How does Andorra make money? ›

Tourism is the mainstay of Andorra's economy, accounting for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts.

Is Andorra a tax free country? ›

Is Andorra Tax-Free? Andorra is a country that has an incredible tax system, however, it is not completely tax-free. The country has no capital gains, inheritance, or sales taxes. In addition to these benefits, the Andorran government does not impose any tariffs on imports and exports.

How many days are enough for Andorra? ›

For tourists interested in visiting Andorra it can easily be seen in two days. I had looked into taking tours of Andorra. I wanted to take a tour that would go up into the Pyrenees. There is only one tour group that offers tours and then has a different one every day.

What is the food culture of Andorra? ›

Andorran cuisine is mostly Catalan and Provençal, with influences from French and Spanish cuisines. The country's unique location, in the Pyrenees, plays a huge role in the development of its cuisine.

Are there bears in Andorra? ›

The other brown bear habitat, located in the Pyrenees, has 44 specimens and it is shared with neighboring France and the principality of Andorra.

What animal is from Andorra? ›

What is the National Animal of Andorra? The national animal of Andorra is the cattle.

Was Andorra in World War 2? ›

During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain. Given its relative isolation, Andorra has existed outside the mainstream of European history, with few ties to countries other than France and Spain.

Do they speak Spanish in Andorra? ›

The official language is Catalan, but Spanish, Portuguese, and French are also commonly spoken. Most Andorran residents can speak one or more of these, in addition to Catalan.

Can an American move to Andorra? ›

Those wishing to move to Andorra have to apply for a residency permit for either passive or active residency. A passive residency is a way to go for those who wish to obtain a resident status and receive the tax benefits but do not want to live in Andorra for the majority of the year.

Can Americans retire to Andorra? ›

Conditions for retiring to Andorra

This immigration status is for those who decide to settle in the country without carrying out professional activities. This legal option allows retirees with income from sources other than work to enjoy a good quality of life and low rates of tax.

How much money do you need to live in Andorra? ›

How Much Money Do You Need to Live in Andorra? The minimum cost of living in Andorra for an acceptable life standard is around €1,200-€1,400 per month for a single person. The highest expense of the budget is the rental cost.

Why is Andorra rich? ›

Is Andorra a wealthy country? Andorra has a developed economy and a free market, with per capita income above the European average and above the level of its neighbors, Spain and France. The country has developed a sophisticated infrastructure including a one-of-a-kind micro-fiber-optic network for the entire country.

Is Andorra conservative or liberal? ›

The Liberals of Andorra (Catalan: Liberals d'Andorra, LA) is a conservative-liberal political party in Andorra. It is a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

What is the most popular sport in Andorra? ›

Football is by far the most popular game in Andorra and the Andorra national football team has competed internationally but with little success mainly due to the state's relatively small talent pool.

Do you pay tax in Andorra? ›

The government and municipalities collect taxes in Andorra. The government charges the main taxes: on personal income, companies' profits, capital gains, dividends, interest, royalties, vehicle ownership, and VAT.

Can you get Andorra citizenship? ›

If you have lived in Andorra permanently for at least 20 years, or you have been a permanent resident for 10 years and have completed compulsory education within the country, you can obtain citizenship by naturalization.

How much does it cost to move to Andorra? ›

Family of four estimated monthly costs are 2,855.1$ (2,621.2€) without rent. A single person estimated monthly costs are 802.9$ (737.1€) without rent. Cost of living in Andorra is, on average, 23.0% lower than in United States. Rent in Andorra is, on average, 40.3% lower than in United States.

Can you drink alcohol in Andorra? ›

Andorra has strict rules on public drunkenness. It's forbidden to drink alcohol on the street. Andorra applies a zero tolerance policy to the possession and use of illegal drugs.

How much is an apartment in Andorra? ›

Rental prices in Andorra have risen by an average of 5% to 15% depending on the region from 2008 to 2019. In 2021, the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Andorra is €1,193 per month. This is the price quoted by The cost of renting a flat depends on the region.

Is it possible to retire to Andorra? ›

Andorra next to Monaco has the lowest crime rate in Europe. A sophisticated healthcare system together with clean mountain air make it the ideal place for your retirement base. Many retired executives choose Andorra as it offers a series of important advantages.

Does Andorra have a military? ›

Andorra has no standing army but has signed treaties by which Spain and France provide defence assistance and protection. It has a small volunteer army which is purely ceremonial in function. The paramilitary GIPA special forces unit of the national police is trained in counter-terrorism and hostage rescue.

How big is Andorra compared to a US state? ›

Andorra is about 21,012 times smaller than United States.

United States is approximately 9,833,517 sq km, while Andorra is approximately 468 sq km, making Andorra 0.0% the size of United States.

Are there Muslims in Andorra? ›

Andorra is a Christian majority country, with Islam being a minority religion.
Islam in Europe.
90–100%Azerbaijan Kosovo Turkey
30–40%North Macedonia
10–20%Bulgaria Cyprus Georgia Montenegro Russia
8 more rows

Why do tourists go to Andorra? ›

Andorra is a tourist destination in Europe. Andorra has several major ski resorts, including Soldeu/El Tarter and Pal/Arinsal. These are very popular with tourists from Spain, France and the United Kingdom, particularly because their relatively gentle slopes are ideal for less experienced people as well as families.

Why do people move to Andorra? ›

Affordable Cost of Living

Compared to many other European countries, Andorra is an affordable place to live. You may be able to save almost a third of your money if you move to Andorra. Individuals and families should live comfortably without needing a massive income.

Why is Andorra a rich country? ›

Is Andorra a wealthy country? Andorra has a developed economy and a free market, with per capita income above the European average and above the level of its neighbors, Spain and France. The country has developed a sophisticated infrastructure including a one-of-a-kind micro-fiber-optic network for the entire country.

Is Andorra a cheap place to visit? ›

To summarize, Andorra is not expensive to visit compared to most other places in Western Europe.

Do they speak English in Andorra? ›

The languages spoken in Andorra are Catalan, French, Spanish, and English.

What is the main occupation of Andorra? ›

Tourism is the mainstay of Andorra's economy, accounting for roughly 80% of GDP. An estimated 9 million tourists visit annually, attracted by Andorra's duty-free status and by its summer and winter resorts.

Is it safe to go to Andorra? ›

Street crime is rare, but you should take care of your personal belongings. Don't keep money and valuables all in one place. Keep a photocopy or scanned copy of your passport somewhere safe. Be alert to the possible use of 'date rape' and other drugs including 'GHB' and liquid ecstasy.

Why is Andorra tax free? ›

The Principality of Andorra is a small state in the Pyrenees, which is believed to be a true tax haven, especially compared to neighbouring Spain and France. The legend is as close to reality as it can be. Thus, the first €24,000 of the income is tax-free, and the rest is charged up to 10%.

What race lives the longest? ›

Asian people have the longest average life expectancy (83.5 years) and American Indian/Alaska Natives the shortest (65.2 years).

What is the leading cause of death in Andorra? ›

The top cause of death and disability in 2019 is Low back pain, of type Non-communicable diseases, which has increased by 5.05 percent since 2009. The axis shows the percent change from -30 percent to 34 percent.


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