Ed Hardy vodka in Andorra

Frugal Traveler’s Guide to Visit Andorra: A One Day Trip

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It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but up until recently we couldn’t have pointed to Andorra on a map. Before we moved to Europe, we didn’t know all the reasons to visit Andorra or even that it’s a country. If I had been asked this question on Jeopardy, I would’ve guessed that it’s a region in Spain, like “Basque Country.”

It doesn’t help that a town in Italy is called Andora, that there is an Angora rabbit (probably the cutest bunny rabbit in the world), an Angora goat (the famous source of mohair), and that the latter two take their name from a city in Turkey, which is now more commonly called Ankara.

And we’re not the only ones! When we talk travel with people, many have never heard of the country of Andorra. Most who have aren’t sure where to find it on a map.

Want to visit Andorra? This tiny country in Europe is perfect for budget travelers: duty-free shopping, free attractions, and it's doable in a one day trip. Click to Tweet
Gorgeous snowy Pyrenees, one of many reasons to visit Andorra
The average elevation of the country is 2000 meters; winter enthusiasts flock to Andorra for skiing in the Pyrenees.

Even after reading about Andorra online, we didn’t realize how cool it is until we drove through it on a 10-day road trip from Switzerland to Spain.

You can actually easily drive across it in about an hour, but considering you can spend weeks there just exploring its gorgeous hiking trails, this little country has a lot to offer!

If you’re planning your own Andorra road trip or are curious about what language they speak, what currency they use, what the country is famous for, or what to do in Andorra while you’re there, we’ll share all of that – and more – in this post.

Day 8: Andorra | 10-Day Road Trip Map & Itinerary

For those feeling particularly adventurous, you’re welcome to use our custom map to build your own DIY European road trip.

The map is best viewed in full size. Just click on the square icon in the upper right corner to enlarge it and you’re all set.

Things to Know Before Visiting Andorra

Where is Andorra in Europe?

Andorra is a landlocked country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.

With a total of just 468 square kilometers (181 sq miles), it’s the 16th smallest country in the world by size.

By population, it’s the 11th smallest with just over 77,000 inhabitants.

One of the perks about Andorra being so small is that you can plan a day trip without stressing too much about choosing what you want to see. It’s manageable in one day, though obviously if you can afford more time, we say do it!

How do you get to Andorra?

Andorra doesn’t have any major international airports, so your best bet is to drive. You can fly in to major hubs like Barcelona or Toulouse and then rent a car.

From Toulouse to Andorra’s French border crossing at El Pas de la Casa, it’s just over a 2-hour drive. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive to Andorra from Barcelona. The Andorra-Spain border crossing is at La Farga de Moles.

You can book day trips with different tour groups also, but we prefer DIY independent travel, so that’s how we visited Andorra. It meant we had the entire day and endless freedom to poke along the route and stop wherever we wanted on our road trip.

What language is spoken in Andorra?

The official language of Andorra is Catalan, a romance language that’s spoken by much of the population.

About 60% also speak Spanish, and a small minority speak French.

What currency do they use?

Even though Andorra isn’t officially part of the EU, they entered a Monetary Agreement to use the euro as their official currency.

It makes travel super easy! Cash and credit cards are accepted widely.

Don’t bring alcohol to Andorra!

Why?

The country is not only a tax haven, but it’s famous for its duty-free shopping. When you see how cheap even fancy alcohol is, you’ll cry at how much you just spent on it in Spain or France.

Buy it in Andorra. Drink it. Then buy more and take it with you!

Ed Hardy vodka, duty-free shopping in Andorra
A bottle of Ed Hardy vodka retails for €35 in Andorra.
Cheap duty-free shopping in Andorra
We saw a lot of alcohol brands we’ve never seen before.

Our Road Trip Through Andorra –> Spain to France

Have you ever been traveling and pulled into a hotel or campground late at night with no idea what you would wake up to find in the light of day?

It’s always such a fun and exciting moment when you roll out in the morning and find that the flat, dark vastness next to the road the night before is actually a lake, or that you’re on top of a mountain in the jungle with a smoldering volcano right next to where you were just sleeping, totally oblivious.

During a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, I remember pulling onto a national forest road near the park to find a free spot for a night of rough camping. It was late, pitch black. Trav and I were both exhausted. After dodging potholes on dirt roads for what seemed like forever, we found a nice little spot just big enough for our tent off in the tulies.

We thought we were in the Dixie National Forest boondocks.

We woke up in the morning to open range cows grazing around our tent and a boisterous neighboring family camped along a nearby ravine. We were hardly in the wilderness, but one of the best things about travelling is that you just never know what you’re gonna get!

Andorra travel is a bit like that. It’s a lot like the rest of Europe, but you still don’t know quite what to expect.

Staying Overnight at Camping La Ribera Salada in Spain

Many of those who road trip through Andorra never stay the night there. It was the same for us. If we ever go back to Andorra, we’ll definitely plan a multi-day stay in the country and spend it hiking with our dog.

We would’ve liked to have stayed at least one night, but it just didn’t work out that way in terms of our road trip schedule. Instead, we camped in Spain near the Andorran border the night before, and we camped in France after crossing the border on the other side.

Hwy C-14 near the Spain and Andorra border
Highway C-14 passes through a tunnel in northern Spain near the Andorra border.

We had spent the day before our Andorra road trip exploring Zaragoza. Leaving Zaragoza a bit late in the day, we set a course for Andorra, not knowing if we’d be there by nightfall or where we’d sleep.

Using Maps.me, our fabulous free map app, we saw a little tent icon for a place called Camping La Ribera Salada. We were near Ogern, Spain, almost to the border with Andorra.

It was late evening, we were tired, and the icon was near us not far off the main highway, so we decided to check it out. Since we wanted to spend the entire next day exploring Andorra, the location was perfect.

Lodging Tip: We recommend Camping La Ribera Salada to anyone looking for a nice, inexpensive budget lodging option near Andorra. You don’t even have to be camping since they offer little RVs and cabins for rent as well.

About 5 km off the main highway, we turned up a rough dirt road simply marked “camping.” Navigating around rutted switchbacks, we wound our way to the top of a small rise above town.

Pulling into the parking area for Camping La Ribera Salada just before 10 pm, we looked at each other in dismay.

A few dim lights reflected off strange shiny metal structures and far too many man-made objects for our liking. It hardly fit our idea of a campground. For us, the ideal campsite has more trees + wildlife than humans, but we were tired and curious so we plodded up the stairs to the registration building to ask about tent camping. We had all our camping gear in the car.

Cabin at Camping La Ribera in Spain on our Andorra road trip
Our €20 cabin at Camping La Ribera Salada was the perfect place to stay before crossing into Andorra.

I immediately liked the elderly gentleman who greeted us in Spanish. He said it wasn’t good to still be traveling so late at night and seemed quite concerned about making sure we had a safe place to stay.

Grateful that we could communicate in Spanish, I asked if he had anything cheaper than the tent space that was merely a small square of rocks and grass but still cost €18.

He showed us to a cute wooden cabin, warning us that it really wasn’t ready for occupants yet since it was being “remodeled.” Though it was actually a couple of euros more, we nabbed it on the spot, confident he was giving us a bargain compared to the prices of the completed cabins.

With full bathroom amenities nearby and a cozy double bed, we crashed hard for the night.

Cabins at Camping La Ribera in Spain
Cabins line the road that loops through Camping La Ribera.

In the light of day, we realized the campground was rather charming. Though its creative mixture of wooden cabins and renovated RVs lining the narrow road made it feel a bit cramped, we found the accommodations to be simple but comfortable.

I felt the love and effort of the owners to make it as nice as possible.

It was clear that it doesn’t really cater to tent campers looking for solitude, but it seemed like a fun place for families and friends to get together for socializing and to enjoy the amenities – playground for kids, pool, etc.

Pool at Camping La Ribera Salada in Spain

The pool wasn’t yet open during our stay, but it would be great in summer.

We were in such a hurry to visit Andorra in the morning that we actually passed up coffee at the little café in favor of getting back on the road, but we had a nice stay at the campground.

Booking Info: You can find more information about Camping La Ribera Salada here.

After checking out of Camping La Ribera, we were within sight of the Spanish/Andorran border in less than an hour.

So exciting!

Crossing the Border at La Farga de Moles

Andorra only has two official border crossings, one to enter France and one to enter Spain.

If you enter Andorra from Spain, you’ll cross the border from the Duana d’La Farga de Moles station on the Spanish side to the Duana de Sant Julià de Lòria station in Andorra. Because Andorra isn’t officially part of the EU, these are official border crossings manned with officers checking travel documents. Make sure you have your passport and any other documents you’d typically have to fly or cross an international border.

Despite a long line of cars and tourist buses, the crossing was still pretty quick and easy. We didn’t have to wait long before we rolled up to a Customs official. He didn’t ask us about our nationality, reason for our border crossing, or whether we were carrying contraband, guns, or cash in excess of $10,000 – questions we came to expect at the US/Canadian border.

By the way, does anyone ever answer yes to those questions??

Instead, he asked us if we were in a rental car.

Rather surprised at the odd question, we told him we owned it. He looked equally surprised, but then smiled, thanked us, and waved us on into Andorra.

I still have no idea what the dealio was with that exchange, but we were IN!

Spanish-Andorran border
Spanish-Andorran border crossing

Craaaazy Cheap Duty-Free Shopping

Once in Andorra, you won’t have to wait long before coming across a huge shopping mall. The E.Leclerc Commercial Center is less than 5 miles from the border crossing.

It is THE place to go for shopping in Andorra. And if you miss this one, there’s a second E.Leclerc just up the road in the capital city of Andorra la Vella.

We hadn’t heard of E.Leclerc before our trip, but we pulled in out of curiosity. We’re so glad we did!

The multi-story complex was swarming with cars and shoppers. Thinking it was bound to be cheaper than Switzerland, we figured we’d just pop in for a few non-perishables to stock up our pantry. Instead, we ended up spending close to two hours shopping for groceries, gifts for friends, and at times just staring at the prices!

Even for Two Small Potatoes who grew up with working class parents and who are fairly thrifty, Andorra still blew us away.

Airport shops often claim they offer duty-free shopping as well, yet charge ridiculous prices. Duty-free shopping in Andorra is the real deal.

Duty-free shopping in Andorra after living in Switzerland for 9 months was like stumbling upon a desert oasis for thirsty travelers, and I don't just mean because of the cheap alcohol. Click to Tweet
Cheap duty free shopping at ELeclerc in Andorra
Not only are the prices low but they have SO much variety. This entire room is just cooking oil – any kind you could possibly need.

We did, of course, spend a fair amount of time browsing their extensive liquor selection. It wasn’t easy choosing just a few from the hundreds of fancy bottles with exotic labeling.

A huge bottle of Smirnoff for €6? We’ll take it!

With our shopping cart full, I threw in one last impulse buy from the bakery section before checking out. After trying a sample of the coca mini crema (mini cream cake), I couldn’t pass it up.

Duty-free shopping on our Andorra road trip
The coca mini crema from E.Leclerc is SO good if you like sweet pastries.

More like a soft, sweet bread than a cake, it was striped with a delicious cream cheese filling and reminded me of pan de crema, a similar bread pastry I used to buy several times a week from a little shop near the Universidad de Costa Rica where I studied abroad for a semester.

Imagine the filling of a New York Cheesecake meets a fresh loaf of sweet bread and you wouldn’t have passed it up either!

Travis wasn’t as taken with it, but I knew he’d appreciate it more the next morning with coffee.

What to See in Andorra la Vella, the Capital City

One of the most popular places to visit in Andorra is Andorra la Vella. From E.Leclerc, Andorra la Vella is only about a 15-minute drive up the road. It’s a great place to spend a few hours for lunch and to see a few notable tourist attractions.

Free WiFi at McDonald’s

If you’re like us and are super frugal and/or don’t always have mobile data when you’re traveling, you might need WiFi when you get to Andorra. After searching everywhere in the capital city, we finally gave up and went where we knew it’d be all but guaranteed.

McDonald’s!

As unglamorous and cliché as it may be, we needed WiFi to message our friends who were caring for our dog, and we were jonesin’ for coffee and french fries. In our neck of the woods in the US, McDonald’s serves Seattle’s Best coffee, which we both love, and we were hoping they’d have something at least equally good.

Turns out, they did – and it was only one euro! 

We were so stoked, we each bought two, guzzling the first and savoring the second.

We shot off our message and headed out for some sightseeing.

Church of Santa Coloma

Our first stop was to the Church of Santa Coloma. Dating from as far back as the 9th century, the Church of Santa Coloma is the oldest church in Andorra.

We found little information about the Church of Santa Coloma, either on site or online since, but still found it quite charming. The circular belfry is unusual and the only one like it in Andorra.

Santa Coloma Church in Andorra la Vella
Click to Purchase Image on Fine Art America

The setting, a deep valley in the midst of the Pyrenees, adds to its beauty.

The church is so close to Andorra’s northwestern border that Spain is just a few kilometers up the ravine in the photo below.

The church was closed during our visit, but it’s free to explore the grounds.

We came across a single headstone marking the passing of Antonia Casal Molné. She died 24.11.1944 at the age of 70.

Who was this woman?

Why was she buried on the church grounds?

Why is hers the only headstone there??

Tombstone at Santa Coloma Church, Andorra
Solitary headstone at the Santa Coloma Church in Andorra la Vella

Caldea Thermal Spa

Andorra has a number of highly rated spa centers, and Caldea Spa is one of them. Located in Andorra la Vella, the spa center covers 30,000 square meters and is one of the largest spas in southern Europe.

Its naturally heated thermal waters are rich in minerals. Visitors can soak in jacuzzis, relax under manmade waterfalls, and just decompress in the most beautifully designed pools.

We didn’t find out about Caldea until after our visit, but if we had a do-over, we’d definitely go there.

Travel Tip: Here you can find more information about Caldea Spa.

For other options, Culture Trip has a good list of The Best Spas in Andorra.

Sheep, Sheep & More Sheep!

Andorra has sheep, people!

Ok, so sheep are pretty much everywhere. But they’re really everywhere in Andorra. You’ll see them in fields and on farms, munching on the high mountain grass.

Just outside Andorra la Vella, we pulled over for one last glimpse down the valley. We watched as a man in a field watched over his sheep and goats, babies frolicking in the spring grass.

With smiles on our faces, we headed for the small resort town of El Pas de la Casa in the Pyrenees.

Sheep in Andorra la Vella on our road trip
A man herds his sheep with his dogs near Andorra la Vella.

Driving Through the Pyrenees

Once you leave Andorra la Vella, it’s time for some open road.

The drive through the Pyrenees follows the CG-2, a well maintained and plowed road surrounded by stunning mountain peaks.

Even in April, some of the peaks have enough snow for skiing. Keep that in mind if you’re planning to hike during your visit. It’s better to visit in summer for sunny days, dry trails, and beautiful green vistas.

Pyrenees from the CG-2 in Andorra
The stunning Pyrenees Mountains surround you on all sides as you climb toward El Pas de la Casa.

The drive from Andorra la Vella to the French border is only about 40 km. Plan on at least an hour, longer if you stop for hiking, photos, or to grab a bite to eat.

Mirador del Roc del Quer Viewpoint

One especially note-worthy stop along the drive is the Mirador del Roc del Quer scenic overlook, which is free.

The viewpoint has an observation deck with unparalleled views overlooking the Pyrenees. Though it’s not right on the main highway, it’s not far from it and it’s easy to get to.

From the CG-2, take the exit in Canillo and follow the Coll d’Ordino road, or CS-240. A few minutes later you’ll arrive at the parking area for the overlook.

Don’t forget your camera!

Travel Tip: You can find more information about the Mirador del Roc del Quer viewpoint here.

Hiking or Skiing at El Pas de la Casa Ski Area

Andorra is a popular destination in winter and has a number of famous ski resorts. They’re known for their superb English-speaking ski courses and schools, a number of family-friendly beginner slopes, and extensive ski trails at high elevation, which means a long ski season.

In fact, Andorra is arguably the best place for skiing in the Pyrenees.

Of its ski areas, the resort town of El Pas de La Casa near the French border is really popular.

Pas de la Cas ski area, must-see if you visit Andorra
Click to Purchase Image on Fine Art America

Hoping to hike to a lake above El Pas de la Casa, we stopped on our way through. Unfortunately we were there during the wrong time of year for either hiking or skiing.

When we arrived in town, it was already after 6 pm. The weather was totally gross. We couldn’t even locate the trail head with several inches of soupy snow still on the ground, swirling clouds that hid the peaks, and a steady patter of rain.

Finding a wooden map near our trailhead, we could only laugh. It was so bad!

We located ourselves on the left of the overly enthusiastic blue lines (sou aqui), but couldn’t discern much beyond that.

Maybe one day we’ll return to Andorra and do some hiking, but this day was not our day for it.

Sign at trailhead in Pas de la Casa ski area in Europe
Poor signage at the trailhead in Pas de la Casa, Andorra

Once you leave El Pas de la Casa, you enter France almost immediately.

Without fanfare, circumstance, or pomp, we crossed into France and drove down through the scenic Pyrenees on the French side.

The steep mountains gradually gave way to painfully lush, green fields, tiny villages with old cobblestone streets, and classic stone homes graced with window-box flowers, fluffy white sheep (the cartoon kind you usually only see in dreams), and arched entryways draped in wisteria.

It was so pretty it was almost unreal.

If you have time and are flexible, we definitely recommend you book a stay anywhere in this area. We so badly wanted to extend our trip and stay to explore for a few days.

Staying Overnight at Camping de la Cite in France

Instead, we left that behind and joined a motorway toward the city of Carcassonne.

A French co-worker in Trav’s lab had recommended we visit the town’s medieval city and famous castle there. Since it was only a couple of hours away between us and home, we decided to check it out the next day.

Again with no place to sleep, we drove to Carcassonne intent on finding a campground or place just to pitch our tent.

Rolling into town, we saw a sign for “municipal campground.” We didn’t know what that might mean in Carcassonne, France, but a campground’s a campground, right? We just needed to sleep for a few hours.

Our tent at night at Camping de la Cite near Carcassonne, France
Camping de la Cite in Carcassonne, France

Campground Review: You can see our full review of Camping de la Cite in Carcassonne on TripAdvisor. It’s perfect for budget travelers who want to explore the medieval city and visit Carcassonne Castle.

The gated entryway to Camping De La Cite tipped us off right away that this place was a pretty swanky campground (by our standards), so we didn’t mind shelling out 20 euros for it.

We drove past mostly vacant sites to our spot, threw up our tent, and then wandered over to a picnic table in a large empty field.

That night, we enjoyed our cold camp dinner with the lights of Carcassonne Castle twinkling in the distance.

Tomorrow would bring another fabulous day of adventures exploring Carcassonne’s Formidable Chateau Comtal!

Final thoughts on Andorra – it is worth visiting?

Absolutely!

We definitely saw enough to make us want to visit Andorra again. We really love nature and the outdoors, and we’d love to return for backpacking or horseback riding in any of Andorra’s three protected nature parks.

We’d also like to visit either the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley or the Ordino Valley, both of which are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley is the only road-free place in Andorra, which makes it particularly appealing to us.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, beautiful country in Europe to visit that most people overlook, visit Andorra.

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