Andorra

It is a tiny country located in the high mountains of Pyrenees between France and Spain. It is not a member of EU but enjoys a special relationship with it and uses euro currency. It is famous for winter sports, a warm summer climate great for hiking and mountain biking and duty free goods.

There is no airport in Andorra but there are two main once, Toulouse in France to the north and Barcelona in Spain to the south. Both airports offer frequent connections to Andorra. Entering via the main road from Spain is relatively straight forward drive but entering from France could be more stressful. The French option consists of many hairpin bends and is very challenging in the winter time. If you are going to rent a car, take into account your driving experience.

Andorra is a big ski resort. Grandvalira covers area of 210 km, with slopes between 1710 – 2640m above sea level that are accessible by cable car and chair lifts. I personally think the Pyrenees are less difficult than Alps and are perfect place for beginners and intermediate skiers or snowboarders with many green, blue and red slopes. There are also some black slopes, off piste and snowpark for advanced users. 

We went to Andorra twice for our snowboarding holidays. Both times during Christmas season. I am a beginner snowboarder and my husband is an advanced one – he’s also my teacher. We both had a lot of fun in Grandvalira. 

During our first stay, we flew from Dublin to France with Crystal Ski Holidays. The agent organized for us a shuttle bus from the airport to Soldeu. The return trip was diverted to Barcelona due to heavy snowfall on French site but agent rescheduled bus and flight seamlessly. We flew back to Ireland from Spain.

The second trip was organized solely by ourselves. We flew to Barcelona with Ryanair airline then we got to Andorra by pre booked bus. There are many companies offering transportation between the airport and every resort in Andorra which can be easily found on the internet - we used Shared Airport Transport.

We visited Soldeu in both cases. Soldeu is a small but very popular village. Perfect base for exploring the whole ski area and enjoying friendly and laid back après ski scene by night.

Soldeu offers variety of accommodation types and good selection of restaurants and pubs to choose from as well as disco bar. The most of the Soldeu après ski scene takes place along the main road in the centre of the town. You can find here all amenities you would expect from a ski village like small supermarket, shops selling ski and snowboard gear, pharmacy and also bus link to the capitol Andorra La Vella for a duty free shopping.

The main gondola lift is located in the very centre of Soldeu. The lift takes you directly to the main plaza. You can also find ski pass office and Sports Calbo Ski hire/shop next to the main gondola. To avoid queues and get some discount, you should book your equipment online and collect it on the evening before your ski pass starts. You can also hire a ski locker located next to the gondola but it is pricey, considering every hotel offers ski lockers for margin of the price or better. 

Soldeu offers variety of hotels to suit everybody. Consider choosing a hotel in the town centre – close to main gondola and nightlife amenities to avoid unnecessary bus trips. We tried Naudi Hotel with lovely mountain view from its restaurant’s windows and also Soldeu Maistre Hotel. Both are located in close proximity to the gondola and all local attractions. Both offer ski lockers and free basic internet but you better pay extra for a ‘usable’ connection upgrade. Both hotels offer BB or HB to choose from. In both cases we booked HB option but often we ate outside the hotel.

I personally prefer Soldeu Maistre Hotel for its friendly atmosphere and tasty food. Also, if you travel to Soldeu for Christmas, Maistre Hotel organizes a Gala Christmas Eve Party – a set menu, lovely dinner with multiple dishes. 

Restaurants located along the slopes are disappointing. Theirs menu is based on sandwiches, french-fries and hamburgers. I am not a hamburger lover so I can only recommend sweet pastries, hot chocolate and coffee with rum to keep you warm and happy.

It is worth to taste a flammable pancakes in Bruxelles hotel / restaurant in the centre of Soldeu. They also serve hot wine in oversized mugs. We liked to stop by Serendipity for a coffee or tea with tasty, home-made sandwiches and delicious cakes on the way to our hotel. This little café is run by two lovely ladies and is located very close to the gondola.

There are also many attractions organized for tourists like dog sledges and snow tubbing. We participated in tube slide which is organized once a week and starts after sunset at the top of the main gondola area.  It is an unexpansive, family friendly, full of fun outdoor activity that starts with a hot chocolate and finishes with a hot wine. 

Soldeu means Sun God and both times we enjoyed an absolutely sunny, beautiful weather for the most of the time. Unfortunately, over the last two years, due to fresh snow deficiency around Christmas time, some of the slopes were closed. Although, there were still plenty of slopes open to get away from the crowds.

If you are a beginner or intermediate rider, you will be perfectly happy in Grandvalira. For advanced users I can recommend snowpark el Tarter, perfectly suited for all the adrenaline junkies.

For more extensive, duty free shopping opportunities, you may consider paying a visit to the capitol of Andorra – Andorra La Vella. You can get there by bus or taxi. Buses depart regularly from multiple bus stops located along the main road throughout the town.

If you would like to see Andorra in more details please refer to GoPro Video 2014 and GoPro Video 2015 pages above.