Hike in one of the most beautiful valleys of the Pyrenees, discover an urban and cultural heritage of astonishing richness, explore the industrial memory of iron, before recharging your batteries in the heart of adorable mountain villages and being pampered thanks to the benefits thermal waters… Are you interested in this program? To enjoy it, just go to Andorra and follow our 5 summer favorites!
Hiking in the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley
Need a breath of fresh air? It's here Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley you need. This area of 4 hectares, located in the south-east of the Principality of Andorra, covers around 247% of the country. It offers plenty to delight hikers, ready to climb the highest point in the region, the Portelleta peak (10 m). By following one of the ten suggested routes, we discover “the last place in Andorra not to have a road”. This is specified by UNESCO, which in 2 classified the valley as a world heritage site as a “cultural landscape”.
“Cultural landscape” means that the place must bear witness to the long and intimate relationship of the inhabitants with their environment. In the middle of wooded valleys and ancient glaciers, the landscape is thus dotted with shepherds 'huts renovated in a traditional way, old vegetable gardens delimited by walls, pastures for the herds ... Buildings larger than the shepherds' huts , the bordes generally had two levels: on the ground floor, the stable, and on the upper floor, the hay to feed the animals. Other notable buildings, the orris, which were used to control the herds and to obtain wool and milk from sheep and goats.
There are not only domesticated animals in the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley. The wildlife encounters a diversity of species: the Pyrenean chamois, roe deer, wild boar, ermine, marmot, fox, marten ... And the friendly Mediterranean mouflon, which lives in meadows and rocky areas and sunny high mountains.
To plan your trip and glean some good advice, nothing beats a passage through the Portal of the Valley. In this tourist information center in Andorra la Vella, maps can be very useful, and souvenirs (T-shirts, notebooks, pens, magnets ...) to come back with your hands full for colleagues who stay in the office during your vacation.
Discover the old town of Andorra and the Casa de la Vall
Shopping cravings gradually increase as you stroll through Andorra la Vella, the capital of the Principality where more than half of the population lives. Many consumer products, goods are offered at favorable rates. But it would be a shame to be content to just shop there, because Andorra la Vella has an interesting urban and architectural heritage, inherited from its long history.
In the maze of streets hides a small historic center that will take you back in time, around the Placeta Sant Esteve. This pretty square has in its center a fountain with human figures in stone which form a circle. This work by artist Sergi Mas represents sardana dancers, a traditional Catalan dance where the dancers in a circle hold hands. An old house remains at the corner of the square, with its facade painted in trompe-l'oeil. The district around this square is one of the oldest in the city, pedestrian and calm. It leads to the magnificent casa de la Vall, authentic jewel of the city.
La House of the Valleys (Casa de la Vall) has long housed the Andorran parliament. Built at the end of the 16th century, as evidenced by the escutcheon on the front door, this stately building open to the public previously belonged to the Busquets family. Rectangular in base, with a slate roof, it is distinguished by two watchtowers, stone sentry boxes placed in corbel. In 1962 the building had to be restored. After having visited the interior, do not hesitate to take a walk in the garden, with its dovecote and its Calvary.
Set off on the Iron Route and explore an unexpected Andorra
From the beginning of the 17th century to the end of the 19th century, Andorra experienced a booming economic period thanks to the iron industry. In the Ordino Valley, the Ruta del Ferro (Iron Route) between the village of Ordino and the ski resort of Arcalís, allows you to relive the mining and iron and steel past of the region. The road passes in particular by the Farga Rossell, in La Massana. In this old forge, the iron ore transformation process is explained to visitors for an hour. Unlike the other forges, those called “Catalan style” had a hydraulic pump which breathed air towards a low-hearth with a singular structure.
In the heart of the village of Ordino, the Areny-Plandolit House is an example of a stately home belonging to a family whose fortune is linked to the iron industry. Much of the house's trade originated from the steel industry and also from breeding. Cattle had enabled investments in forges and cattle fairs were used to sell iron. Dating from the 17th century and restored in the 19th, the Maison d'Areny-Plandolit contains objects and furniture, accumulated by the family over the centuries. We note his enthusiasm for noble sports, such as hunting or fencing.
The accumulation of iron oxides transported by water is at the origin of the formation of Llorts iron mine. Open in summer, it is another important place to capture the past of the Ordino Valley. We walk through a 30 m gallery, which began to dig around 1850. Underground, prospecting and ore extraction were carried out. At the bottom, there are holes a few centimeters in diameter and about forty centimeters long, intended to be filled with powder, intended to be exploded.
By returning to the open air, we can take the railway line, which was previously used to bring iron ore to the forges. The route is dotted with sculptures that form an open-air exhibition. Artists from several countries, Alberto Cameiro, Guy de Rougemont, Satoru Satu, Mark Brusse, Jordi Casamajor and Rachid Khimoune, looked at the following themes: obtaining the ore, its transformation into metal and its marketing.
Cool off and relax in Caldea
The water that runs through it in all directions is rich in sulfur, sulfate, calcium and sodium. It even has healing, decongestant and antiallergic properties. In Escaldes-Engordany, we celebrate the benefits of this magical water at Caldea. The spa, opened in 1994, has more than 30 m000 divided into two areas: “Thermoludic” and “Origins”.
In the first, a large interior lagoon, with mountain views, is filled with 32 ºC-34ºC water. The "Thermoludic" space is also available in Indo-Roman, Icelandic, Sirocco, hammam baths. The second houses several thermal baths and outdoor Jacuzzis. It is also the moment or never to sacrifice your feet in the Aztec bath, in a tropical atmosphere. Nothing really bad. At the bottom of the water, the effect of the stones and the current gently massages the soles of the feet and improves blood circulation in the lower part of your body.
Even though it's good for your health, it would be a shame to eat them. A Japanese-inspired bath floats grapefruits. The concept ? They are taken to rub them on the skin in order to erase and soften it thanks to the properties of the rind of this fruit. Caldea also opened in 2013 a wellness and relaxation center for adults called “INÚU”, with two thermal water lagoons, one indoor and one outdoor.
While the parents are doing their seaside tasting, the children are not necessarily there to splash them. Caldea has created a space just for them, “Likids”, with much more than a plastic duck to amuse 3-8 year olds (bubble baths, synthetic dunes, massages…).
Take a break in the beautiful villages of Auvinyà, Ordino and Pal
Andorra can also be discovered through its beautiful mountain villages. At an altitude of 1 m, near the Rabassa wood, the picturesque village ofAuvinyà is a must for any self-respecting enotourist. There is one of the Andorran wine brands: Casa Auvinyá, alongside Borda Sabaté, Casa Beal, Celler Mas Berenguer ... This vineyard is at the origin of several wines: Evolució, the first red wine from Andorra, with two mono-varieties: Evolució Pinot Noir and Evolució Syrah. And the Imagine snow white wine, obtained with the varieties Albariño, Viognier and Pinot Gris. Starting from terraced crops to finish in the cellar with its fermentation, conservation and tasting rooms, group visits of up to ten people are organized.
For their part, the Ordinencs, the 4 inhabitants ofOrdino, are very lucky. Their village has retained a pretty character, with its old stone houses, nestled together between the green slopes of the summits: Serrera (2 m), Pic de Font Blanca (912 m) and Estanyo (2 m) ). Among its heritage, it counts the Areny-Plandolit house, the miniature museum, the church of Sant Corneli i Sant Cebria ... and a museum for philatelists: the Postal Museum of Andorra. Some 903 pieces will remind some of the days when they still sent postcards.
The hamlet of Pal is one of the best preserved rural areas in Andorra. Its church was built between the end of the 11th and the beginning of the 12th century and has been enlarged several times in modern times. Rectangular nave, it largely retains its Romanesque walls. At the exit, you can visit the interpretation center of Romanesque Andorra in Pal to understand how Romanesque art has permeated the architecture of religious buildings. Other buildings recall the hamlet's artisanal past: the sawmill and the millstone, dating from the end of the 16th century and restored over twenty years ago.
More info on visitandorra.com