Andorra is located in the heart of the Pyrenees and has dozens of peaks that rise above 2,000 meters. Ninety percent of the country consists of forests and ten percent of this area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Typical is not only the unique form of monarchy, but the country is also known for having no airports or train stations. Although this small principality only has 80,000 inhabitants, every town is linked to a ski area.
The price level in Andorra is attractive, both for the accommodations and the food. Although tourism in Andorra attracts about 8 million visitors every year, there are no large hordes of Dutch winter sports enthusiasts here. Yet Andorra has everything you need for the perfect ski holiday.
Best ski resorts Andorra
In the Andorran Pyrenees you will find a handful of beautiful ski areas, in which considerable investments have been made in recent years. In the mountain state there are two valleys with excellent opportunities for winter sports enthusiasts; the Grandvalira and the Vallnord valley. The Grandvalira ski area is by far the largest ski resort in Andorra with over 200 kilometers of contiguous ski slopes. The smaller ski areas Ordino-Arcalis (best off-piste) and Pal Arinsal (many height differences) are both located in the Vallnord valley, but are not connected to each other.
The three ski areas, together with just over 300 kilometers of slopes, are located between 1,550 and 2,640 meters, making them extremely snow-sure from December to April. Due to its southern location, Andorra is also very sunny. In addition to 200 ski slopes, there are countless ski touring circuits for ski tourers and well-marked routes for snowshoe hikes. You can paraglide above the beautiful snow-capped peaks, rent a snowmobile and even go heli-skiing. Andorra has the largest spa in Southern Europe and is bursting with local restaurants serving the essence of Andorran cuisine. For your ski trip you can choose from different ski areas and resorts. Reishonger is happy to help you make the right choice.
Vallnord-Pal Arinsal – cozy winter sports
Andorra’s most centrally located ski area is Vallnord-Pal Arinsal, just 6 kilometers from the capital Andorra la Vella. In total, the area has 47 different slopes of different levels, resulting in 63 kilometers of groomed slopes between 1,500 meters and 2,560 meters in altitude. There is room for everyone on the long and narrow slopes and it is rarely crowded here even during school holidays.
The ski area is made up of two ski sectors: Pal and Arinsal, spread over the La Massana valley, where the highest peaks in the country can be found. The sector Right on the flanks of the Pic del Cubil (2,364 meters) is the largest and very wooded, with some nice descents through the trees. This sector is connected to the smaller area of Arinsal via a large gondola that takes you to the Pic Negre (2,569 meters) in one go. You can spend the night in Arinsal on the slopes, or in La Massana (Pal). The La Massana gondola takes you to the nearby slopes.
Ski touring is something you really should try here. The skimo trails to natural lookout points offer exceptional views of the northern valleys. Arinsal offers only one very hard skimo route (to Port Negre). Pal has some beautiful and generally less strenuous routes; Verdet, Bec, Pla de la Cot, Serra and Coll de la Botella. Setúria is still difficult. Other recommendations are a snowmobile excursion, a snowshoe hike, a ride on the cable car in La Massana and a dog sledding trip.
In addition to snow fun, Andorra also has several spas and wellness centers. The spa town of Caldea, the largest spa in southern Europe, is 10 minutes away from Vallnord. Here you can completely relax in the warmth of saunas and thermal springs. There are also special activities for children. All this makes the area very suitable for family winter sports holidays.
Ordino Arcalis – small off-piste paradise
In Ordino Arcalis, a modest 30 kilometers of slopes await winter sports enthusiasts. That may seem small, but the variation in slopes is enormous. There is a nice mix between blue, red and black slopes and there are several winter hiking trails and ski routes in the ski area. Moreover, the off-piste possibilities in this ski area are endless. It is not for nothing that freeride competitions are regularly organized. For off-piste lovers , Ordino Arcalis is the perfect destination because of the snow quality and endless possibilities in the freeride area outside the groomed slopes. Due to its size and structure, Ordino Arcalis is a great family ski area.
You can enjoy ski touring here, but to places where you can easily reach the lift. Yet skimo excursions, snowshoe hikes and snowmobiles will take you to the most remote areas. You will also find a helipad here for heli-skiing from the highest peaks of the resort! Do you want to recover from all the action? A 15-minute drive from Ordino Arcalis you will find Andorra’s Shopping Mile , where you will find the latest trends and the best offers.
You can spend the night in the village of Arcalís, more of a lift station, or in the nice town of Ordino, which is a 20-minute drive from the ski area. The ski area is close to Vallnord, which means that winter sports in both these ski areas are also possible. A free ski bus connects Ordino-Arcalís with La Massana (Pal) and Arinsal, a journey of about 30 minutes. You can also buy a combination ski pass for Grandvalira and Ordino Arcalis, which means you can suddenly use hundreds of kilometers of ski slopes. You have to take the (ski) bus or car to Encamp, a 40-minute drive. Ordino is certainly a good base if you also want to use Vallnord or Grandvalira. Although the Ordino Arcalís ski area in the extreme northwest of Andorra, close to the French border, is the longest journey from the airport,
Grandvalira – the snow capital of the Pyrenees
For extensive and endless slopes you have to go to the Grandvalira ski area. This is the largest and most famous ski area in the Pyrenees, consisting of seven different villages. Each and every one of them ideal villages to spend your skiing holiday, with a wide choice of hotels and accommodations. Each winter sports village has its own character with associated pluses and minuses.
Canillo is the ideal ski village for beginners, the medieval authentic Encamp is the most accessible village in the ski area and the high Pas de la Casa is perhaps the most lively village full of shops, restaurants, discos, bars, fitness and sauna. The cozy Soldeu offers beautiful slopes in a wooded area, just like the popular El Tarter. Grau Roig is just a big ski station, but in the most untouched nature. What these ski villages have in common is that they offer quick access to the slopes of Grandvalira. Valley descents are possible to the villages of Pas de la Casa, Soldeu and El Tarter. Canillo and Encamp are a bit too low for a valley descent.
Spread over four valleys, there are no fewer than 138 slopes that together provide 210 kilometers of skiing fun. Although you will mainly find long blue and red runs in Grandvalira, there are also a number of challenging black runs. Experienced winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy fantastic ski tours through the vast area, fine off-piste opportunities and various snow parks. The mountain peaks of the area reach above 2,800 meters.
One of the highlights of this area is the mushing activity, a dog sled ride. In the ski area itself you can use a zipline at Canillo. Here you can reach a speed of no less than 80 kilometers per hour. In El Tarter and Grau Roig you can go through the woods with small dog sleds. You can go paragliding in El Tarter and in various places you can go winter hiking with raquettes or rent a snowmobile to view the ski area from a different side.
Adventures off the slopes
True fanatics can also paraglide, heli-ski and ski touring in Andorra. Skimo (the common abbreviation for ski mountaineering in Andorra) can be done in all corners of the principality. You can rent racquets for snowshoeing through the woods, along the signposted trails and even in the nature parks: Sorteny Valley, Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley or the Comapedrosa Valley. Great alternatives are a snowmobile excursion, ice karting in Canillo or (learning to) build an igloo in Grandvalira Mountain Park. One of the highlights in Andorra is the activity ‘mushing’, a dog sled ride. A special place to discover is the Peretol forest in Grandvalira.
Adventure Park Naturland is the only place in the principality with 15 kilometers of cross-country trails. You can also toboggan on the Tobotronc track, the longest alpine slide in the world, climb in the Airtrekk and race on the buggy circuit. At Mon(t) Màgic amusement park, you can go down the Magic Gliss mountain slide or zipline along the 550m zipline.
Sleeping under the stars
The Arcalís experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Pyrenees! With mountain skis or snowshoes you go uphill to reach a scenic spot next to the Tristaina Lakes. You can spend the night on the mountain top: a rough night’s sleep under a magical starry sky!
Besides skiing and other snow fun, there is much more to experience in Andorra. Andorra’s capital, La Vella, is never far away. From Encamp you can even take the (free) ski bus to this historic city, in just ten minutes. Spread over the region you will find more than 40 Romanesque churches, 21 museums and numerous restaurants. It is especially recommended to taste the local cuisine and warm up with culinary delicacies. For example, try the caragols a la llauna , grilled and seasoned vineyard snails. But the sweet cake with nutmeg ‘ coca masegada ‘ and the blackberry jam are also typical of Andorra.
Traditional dishes at the borda
The menu of the borda (local restaurants) mainly features dishes from the three valleys of the country. Bordes are old stone houses where cattle used to be kept, now renovated and converted into restaurants. There are about 20 spread across the country and they serve the essence of Andorran cuisine. The ideal place to try seasonal, local products prepared in the traditional way. For example, order a trinxat with trumfes (a classic dish of potato and winter cabbage), mountain rice, or a Truites de carreroles (an omelette with mushrooms from the woods). But of course you can also choose fondue, game, pizza and pasta dishes.
After-ski in Andorra
Après-ski in Andorra is different than in the Alps. In Arcalis, for example, you will not actually find après-ski. The urban Ordino does have bars, but you don’t quickly enter them with your ski boots. In the villages around the ski resorts such as Arinsal, Pas de la Casa and Soldeu you will find more and more bars and restaurants. In the high season, winter sports enthusiasts gather early at the bars and you can hear the fun echoing through Andorra in the afternoon.
Combine a ski trip Andorra with a city break Toulouse
Since Andorra is quite far from the Netherlands, a flight to the nearby city of Toulouse in France is often chosen. And the nice thing is that your skiing holiday can be perfectly combined with a bustling city trip to the ‘pink city’ at the foot of the Pyrenees! It is a lively, hip city full of historic buildings, sights and of course plenty of restaurants and nice shops. During a walk through the old city center you can marvel at beautiful churches, squares and narrow streets.