Departament de Turisme del Govern d'Andorra
c/ Prat de la Creu
62 Andorra la Vella (Principat d'Andorra)
Tel: (376) 82 93 45
Fax: (376) 86 01 84

Physical geography

The Principality of Andorra, popularly known as Andorra, makes up a small country within an area of 468 square kilometres and is situated in the heart of the Pyrenees between Spain and France, at the head of the River Valira, a tributary of the River Segre, with which it joins at Seo de Urgel (in Spain).

Andorra is well endowed with rivers and many of the principal valleys take their names from these rivers. Some of these valleys are:

  • La Vall del Valira d'Orient (The Valley of the Eastern Valira River). The river rises in the Circ dels Pessons and having followed a lone course for 23km, joins the North Valira river to form the Valira, commonly called the Gran Valira;
  • La Vall del Valira del Nord (The valley of the North Valira River). The river rises at the Coma del Forat and is 14km long;
  • La Vall del Valira (Valley of the Valira River). This is the valley through which the Valira - formed by the meeting of the Northern and Eastern Valira Rivers - runs.

With the exception of the Valley of Sant Julia, all the valleys of Andorra owe their formation to the passage of glaciers. This we know because the valleys take the 'U' form characteristic of glacial valleys. The highest altitude point is the Coma Pedrosa (2,942m) and the lowest point is the Riu Runer (838m).


As the geographic position implies, the climate of Andorra is a mountainous one.

Four elements influence Andorran weather:

  • the temperature of the air: the warm summers and cold winters are the cause of considerable thermic variations throughout the year;
  • the rainfall and snowfall: in spite of Andorra being a mountainous country, the rain is not very plentiful. Snow predominates in winter, and usually commences in about October or November;
  • the wind: in general, winds are moderate. At lower levels they are channelled along the valleys. On the mountain peaks, however, they can at times be violent.


Andorra has a total population of 63,859 inhabitants (December 1995), of which 44,206 are foreigners. The capital is Andorra la Vella with 21,984 inhabitants. Other parishes: Canillo: 2,433; Encamp: 9,360, Ordino: 1,835, La Massana: 5,544; Sant Julia de Loria: 7,446; and Escaldes-Engordany: 15,260.

A brief history

According to the legend, independence was granted to all Andorrans in the year 790 by Charlemagne, the Emperor. It was as a recompense to the inhabitants of the valleys for having guided the imperial army safely in their fight against the Arabs. The Andorran's national anthem makes a reference to the 'Gran Carlemany mon pare...' This is the first event to be considered when trying to find the essence of Andorra, despite the fact that it balances between a possible fantasy and an acceptable reality.

Charlemagne entrusted the organisation of the Andorran territories to Louis 'The Debonnaire', who placed the Valleys under the protection of the fearless Siegfried, the Emperor's companion-at-arms. Subsequently, Siegfried transferred his rights over Andorra to the Counts of Urgel.

The Act of Consecration of the Cathedral of Seo de Urgel, signed in the year 839, lists the parishes of Andorra in geographical order and indicates that the parishes belong to the territory of the Count of Urgel.

As from the 11th century, the Counts of Urgel progressively transferred their rights to the Church of Urgel, and this fact greatly contributed to the transformation of the episcopal power into veritable suzerainty. In January 1133 the Count of Urgel, named Ermengol IV, donated all his possessions in the Valleys of Andorra to the Bishop of Urgel and requested the Andorrans to render homage to the Bishop as a Sire, and also to all his successors.

In the year 1176 an agreement was signed by means of which all Andorrans recognised the Bishop's sovereignty and agreed, in the event of armed conflict, to place at his disposal an armed man from every house. In the year 1186 and also in 1199, all Andorrans ratified their recognition of sovereignty to the Bishop.

Due to several warlike hostilities of the neighbouring lords against the Church of Urgel, the Bishop seeks help and protection among the Caboet family. Then on 19 July 1159 a treaty was signed between Arman de Caboet and the Bishop of Urgel, by which official sovereignty of the Church of Urgel over Andorra is recognised, and the Valleys of Andorra are granted in fief to the House of Caboet. Nevertheless, it was further stipulated that full rights of sovereignty over Andorra be kept by the Church of Urgel and that the House of Caboet would not have full political, military and judicial rights over Andorra.

After various armed difficulties between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Urgel, in respect of Andorra's sovereignty, an agreement or 'pareatge' was signed on 8 September 1278. This is the first constitutional document about Andorra which defines the economic, judicial and military rights of both lords over Andorra, and stipulates that a tribute, or 'questia', has to be paid yearly to the Church and the Count of Foix alternatively. Ten years later, a new agreement 'pareatge' was signed, with the purpose of clarifying some dark and ambiguous points of difficult interpretation about the first agreement's terms. Both agreements or 'pareatges' definitively resolved the long-existing conflict between the lords, and all points stipulated they remain at present still in force, establishing the institutional balance of the Principality of Andorra.

In 1419 the men of Andorra applied to the co-princes for permission to allow Andorrans to meet and discuss questions about the community in a council, which would be presided over by two syndics. The Bishop on 11 February 1419, and the Count of Foix on 17 December of the same year, approved the demand handed by the Andorrans, and as from then the 'Consell de la Terra', or Land Council, which is the first Parliament of Andorra and which has a representation from each parish, was born.

In the 16th century the rights of the Count of Foix were transferred to the French Crown, when the son of Joana d'Albret and Antoni de Borbon, Duque of Vendome, was proclaimed King Henri II of Foix and III of Navarra and became Henry IV of France.

His son, Louis XIII of France, confirmed the incorporation of the Houses of Caboet, Castellbo, Foix and Bearn into the French Crown. Thus, as from the 17th century the rights of Andorra were shared by the Bishop of Urgel and by the French Crown, as successor of the Count of Foix. Subsequently, as a result of the evolution of French politics, these rights passed to the Head of the French State as successor of the Counts of Foix and of the Kings of Navarra. Then, at the request of Andorrans, Napoleon re-established in a conclusive manner the situation of co-principality by an Imperial Decree dated 27 March 1806.

On 22 April 1866, the text of 'La Nova Reforma' (New Reform) was promulgated, by means of which the ancient 'Consell de la Terra' (Land Council) became the 'Consell General' (General Council), as a representation of the population who were elected by restricted suffrage of the 'Caps de Casa' (Heads of Family); thus the election of members of the Andorran Parliament by means of male universal suffrage became valid as from 17 July, 1933. Finally, on 14 April, 1970, the co-princes granted the concession of voting rights to Andorran women.

In 1978 the number of parishes of Andorra was increased from six to seven and those are the following: Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julia de Loria, and Escaldes Engordany.

On 19 October 1978, the two co-princes, Joan Marti i Alanis and Valery Giscard d'Estaing, met in Andorra in commemoration of the 'pareatges' (agreement) signature and also of the 700 years of constitutional life of Andorra.

Following a request by the Andorrans, the two co-princes, by decree on 15 January 1981, decreted a 'modern reform' of the Andorran institutions. By virtue of the above-mentioned decree the 'Consell General' (General Council) remains as a parliament and the 1st Government of the Principality was created, which is presided by the 'Cap de Govern' (Chief of Government or Prime Minister) and is composed by six 'consellers' (ministers). In that decree it is well specified that Andorra is a personal co-principality, detained in equal rights and 'proindivis' by the Bishop of Urgel and the Chief of the French State, as successor of the Count of Foix.

The modernisation of Andorra culminated on 14 March 1993 with the approval by referendum of the text of the Constitution which defines the Principality as an independent, constitutional, democratic and social state.



Languages spoken by nationals

The national language is Catalan. The population also speaks French and Spanish.


Greenwich + one hour.


French francs and Spanish pesetas. Other currencies: Swiss francs, US dollars, Deutschmarks, Dutch florins, etc.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

January 1st, New Year's Day; 14 March, Constitution Day; 8 September, National Day; 25 December, Christmas Day. Also, popular holidays in each parish.

What one should not fail to see

Andorra has charm enough to please any sort of tourist.

The high mountain landscape

There are several small bus-jeeps carrying tourists up to the most picturesque spots like El Coll de la Botella, Seturia, La Rabassa, Cortals d'Encamp, El Serrat, Port d'Envalira, Pas de la Casa and many more. Magnificent scenes can be seen from these heights.

The tourists can climb even higher up and visit the spot of the lakes where they will find the country's highest sites as well as the highest peaks, of up to 2,900 metres.

From November to May the Andorran mountains are covered with snow. Tourists can go skiing over a six month period, especially in Pas de la Casa -Grau Roig, Soldeu - El Tarter, Arinsal Pal, Arcalis and La Rabassa. Children can also ski in La Vall d'Incles.

Romanesque Art: Romanesque art flourished in Andorra in the 11th and 12th centuries. The most important examples of Romanesque art in the valleys of Andorra are the churches and chapels of Sant Joan of Caselles, St. Roma at the Bons, Sant Miquel d'Engolasters, Sant Marti at La Cortinada, Sant Climent of Pal, Santa Coloma and Sant Cerni of Nagol.

The 'Casa de la Vall' is an old building of the 16th century looking like a little fortress, where the 'Consell General' meets. It is the country's parliament.

The 'Casa d'Areny-Plandolit' in Ordino is a building dating back to the keystone engraved 1,633 above the main doorway. The construction, altered in the same civil style as the 'Casa de la Vall' (House of the Valleys), is laid out in a style typical of the country and the Pyrenees area in general.

The National Car Museum at Encamp offers the visitors an original and nostalgic sample of the technical developments between 1898 and 1950.

Trade curiosities: As can be seen at first sight, in recent years Andorra has become principally a trading country. The most varied items are exported here from all over the world, at very low prices, and this draws lots of tourists.


In Andorra there are several discotheques, cinemas, tennis courts, sports grounds (for football, rugby, and basketball). Tourists can go fishing (trout) and hunting (hare, quail rabbit, chamois, wild boar, capercaillie, etc). Fishing is widespread, more so than hunting.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

Throughout the year.

How to dress

For women: in summer, cotton dresses or blouses, but a light jumper is necessary at night. In winter, overcoats, anoraks, snow shoes, boots, ski equipment and sportswear.

For men: in summer, sports clothes, jeans, light suits. In winter, overcoats, woollen suits and clothes, ski equipment and sportswear, boots.

Main holiday resorts

All parishes and small villages; mountain trips, Roman chapels, Casa de la Vall (General Council Seat), commercial centres, the Sanctuary of Meritxell, etc. In winter: all ski resorts.

Main holiday sports

Excursions, athletics, jogging, football, rugby, tennis, swimming, basketball, cycling, skiing, etc. The Olympic Swimming Pool in Andorra la Vella, the shooting field in Sant Julia de Loria and The Andorra Ice Rink in Canillo. One of the best ice skating rinks in Southern Europe, and the only one with maximum Olympic dimensions.

What to eat and drink

Andorran cooking is essentially Catalan with French and Spanish influences. There are many restaurants for everyone. Andorran gastronomy is varied and very accomplished.

What to buy

Andorran trading deals in all sorts of international goods and also in the newest items appearing on the market: food, photography and movie cameras, records, electronic items, fashion, ceramics, jewellery and souvenir articles at very attractive prices. This is due to the duty free system.

Frontier formalities

No frontier or customs formalities.

Main travel routes

By road: from all European continental main cities.

By air: from all the world's main cities via the nearest French and Spanish airports (Toulouse or Barcelona).

By rail: from France, via Toulouse or l'Hospitalet-près-l'Andorre. From Spain, via Puigcerda.


Many festivals and displays: cultural, theatrical, folkloristic; sports, conferences and assemblies at all times. July sees the International Jazz Festival at Escaldes Engordany. In September there is the International Music Festival of the Valley of Ordino.

Musical or other cultural manifestations: Festivals de Meritxell in September each year.

Other cultural or civic activities which are organised by the government. A detailed programme of activities is published monthly.

Representatives abroad

Andorra has tourist offices and delegations abroad. Andorra is touristically represented by the Agencies of Sindicat d' Iniciativa in Europe and America.

Also, for all information:

Belgium: Andorran Tourist Office, Mr de Behr Serge, 10 rue de la Montagne, 1000 Brussels. Tel: (2) 502 1211. Fax: (2) 513 3934.

France: Andorran Tourist office, 26 Avenue de l'Opera, 75001 Paris. Tel: (1) 42 61 5055. Fax: (1) 42 61 419L Minitel: 3615 ANDORRA.

Spain: Andorran Tourist Office, c/Maria Cubi, 159 - 08021 Barcelona Tel: (3) 20 00 655/20 00 787. Fax: (3) 41 41 863.

Andorra Delegation Tourist Offices:

England: Andorran Tourist Delegation, Mrs Picart Ma Rosa, 63 Westover Road, London SW18 2RF (United Kingdom). Tel: +44 (181) 874 806.

Germany: Andorran Touristik Delegation, Mrs Linhard de Hoffmann Isabel, Finsterwalderstr. 28 D-13435 Berlin Tel: (30) 4154914.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on Andorra thanks to the co-operation of the Departament de Turisme del Govern d'Andorra