June 3, 2022: Andorra. Jean and I added Andorra, another European micro-state, to our “been there” list. Tiny Andorra, population 80,000, has an area of only 181 square miles.
Europe has six micro-states: Andorra; Vatican City and San Marino wholly within Italy; Monaco on the coast of France; Liechtenstein squeezed between Switzerland and Austria; the Island nation of Malta south of Sicily. We’ve been to four – San Marino and Malta yet to go. Fun fact: We visited Luxembourg earlier in our trip. While tiny at only 1000 square miles, it is larger than all these micro-states combined! I found this interesting map that overlays the countries for comparison.
Andorra sits on the French/Spanish border, high in the Pyrenees Mountains. Winding mountain roads meant a two-hour drive through Spain to reach our hotel in the capital, Andorra la Vella. The country’s major industries are tourism (skiing) and tax shelters (banking). Andorra uses the Euro but is not officially part of the EU. The “modern” principality formed in the 1200s. The co-princes (joint heads of state) are the Catholic Bishop of Urgell (in Catalonia, Spain) and the French President. Andorra is the only country with Catalan as its national language. Its independence, I suppose, continues to give Catalan separatists in Spain hope.
The drive to Andorra through Spain was incredible – winding mountain roads through high peaks covered in a green fuzz of grass and tiny flowers, with cows and horses roaming freely on the slopes. In the capital city, Andorra la Vella, we saw a boisterous “Hen Party” (bachelorette), a Salvador Dali melting-clock sculpture, a few nice beer gardens, and not a lot more. However, I enjoyed the “Rec de Sola” (Path of the Sun), a pretty pave-stone path along an aqueduct high above the city. My morning run there gave lovely views out over the valley.
Andorra was not as charming as I’d hoped, but I’m glad we went. For most, however, the destination is not worth the long detour. I suppose that sentiment is why tiny Andorra has remained independent for so long!