It has been less than four hours driving and we already passed snowy mountains, Mediterranean beaches and fairy tale towns. A road trip around Andorra might surprise you more than you might think.
It´s 9 in the morning and we are ready to depart from Barcelona on a road trip to Andorra and back through France. I´m very excited, since it´s the first time I will be in the Pyrenees and with not many photographs or videos of certain parts of the region, I´m practically letting Google Maps lead the way. From Barcelona to Andorra it is going to be at least 4 hours of driving. However, with many stops on the way, we expect to spend the whole day driving.
We are not only excited about the mountains, on the road along the coastline on the way back we also expect to see some of the natural wonders and majestic Mediterranean beaches Catalonia has to offer.
A road trip in Northern Spain will definitely show you a different side of Spain. Driving along the narrow streets of Catalonia feels more like a road trip in Poland or the Czech Republic. From an arid and relatively flat landscape (something very common in the central and southern part of Spain), streets start winding and beautiful mountain landscapes start appearing in the horizon.
Small villages like Cercs, located at the right bank of the Llobregat river are nice spots for getting a coffee, some juice or get out for a walk. Many small towns like this are located along the foothills of the Pyrenees and with almost zero tourists stopping around, these places are the perfect spots to experience a more local side of Catalonia.
Roads in Spain can be narrow but they don´t have much traffic and are easy for drivers of all experience levels. Driving regulations in Andorra are just like in any other EU country. Although Andorra doesn’t belong to the European Union, it does belong to the Schengen area, which means there are no border controls or passport stamps.
NOTE: Cars exiting Andorra can get controlled from time to time by either the Spanish or French customs police. Products like alcohol and cigarettes are extremely cheap in Andorra. For that reason there are limits for the export of these.
Andorra is a very small country. Crossing from one side to the other by car can take less than one hour. Still, don´t underestimate what this small country has to offer: Andorra hides some of the most beautiful natural parks in the Pyrenees. At an altitude of 1023m, Andorra la Vella is the most elevated European capital, making it a great spot for long hikes, a ski trip or just some days of relaxation.
During our stay in Andorra, we decided to stay in Encamp, a city located just a few minutes by car from Andorra la Vella and way cheaper than the capital. The architecture and style of the city makes you feel like in a small winter town of Switzerland or Austria. Cottages stand all over the mountains and with incredible views of the beautiful landscape, Andorra is not a place to stay just one day or some hours.
With a large variety of natural parks to wander around and treks that take you from one hour up to a couple of days to complete, Andorra is a great destination for adventure lovers. After long considerations on which park we should visit during our stay (which was way too short!), we finally decided to visit the Parc Natural de la Vall de Sorteny.
This natural paradise at the top of the Pyrenees was the best part of our Andorra trip. The views along the hiking path are incredible and with cameras and drones with me all the time, I felt I had to stop every two minutes to take a photo.
Other alternatives for excellent trekking are Ordino-Arcalis, the Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley and of course, Coma Pedrosa, the highest mountain in Andorra and a popular destination for mountain climbers.
Once leaving via the northern border, entering France landscapes changed drastically. From one of the highest spots in Europe, roads went downhill with wonderful cliffs on one side of the street and small villages with houses in dark stone and beautiful churches started to appear. As in most parts of France, small villages there look like taken from a fairy tale. Towns like Porta or Puigcerda (on the Spanish side) are charming spots for getting some snack and continue the trip.
However, the highlight of southern France was by far Ille-Sur-Tet and its main attraction Les Orgues d´Ille-Sur-Tet. This natural attraction is located 10 minutes by car from Ille-Sur-Tet and the views are simply amazing. Les Orgues d´Ille-Sur-Tet are natural rock formations in different colours and of different heights. Named after the organ instrument for their shape, les Orgues d’Ille-Sur-Tet are definitely worth a stop. Especially with a beautiful pink sky at sunset, this location was more than perfect to finish the day.
NOTE: Although Les Orgues d´Ille-Sur-Tet closes relatively early, you can simply drive uphill a bit and get a full view of the rock formations from the best sunset spot in the area.
Back on our way to Barcelona, it seemed incredible that we saw such a diversity of landscapes in just a few days. However, our trip was not over and along the coast landscapes changed again drastically. Now we had perfect blue waters, a beautiful coastline and one or two natural parks along the way.
Although the highlight of the trip was by far Les Orgues d´Ille-Sur-Tet, a visit to Cap de Creus Natural Park was also more than what we expected. With treks along the coast, beautiful and romantic sunrises and refreshing natural swimming pools, this is a park that deserves its own article. If you ever are in Barcelona and don’t want to go that far away or do a whole road trip around Andorra, this could be the place for you.
Having seen more than ten different landscapes in altitudes from 0 to 1500 m, we felt our short road trip in Andorra went way too fast. A good feeling after finishing discovering a different side of Spain and France, as well as one of the least visited countries in Europe.