Europe countries quests going strong, and I started the new year with a new country, Andorra. I read that if you are not skiing or hiking, there isn’t much to do or see in Andorra, I’ve seen Grandvalira in winter, and I think summer in Andorra should be equally amazing. When it comes to towns and cities, I can’t tell much, except that in Pas de la Casa there were 20 Hypermarkets, 3 shopping centres and around 15 perfumeries, and lots of lots of cigarettes and alcohol shops. But let’s talk about the good stuff. Winter vacation in Andorra, and why you should go, before the climate change hits hard.
Andorra is one of the smallest countries in the world surrounded by France and Spain, and has three ski resorts, Grandvalira, Ordino Arcalis & Pal-Arinsal, the first one being the biggest and greatest. The best thing of all, for me was that it was so good connected, that you can basically ski-through half the country in less than a day.
Andorra doesn’t really have an airport, so the options to get here are either via Toulouse in France or via Barcelona, Spain, and then take a bus, available from both spots. For us the more convenient option was the later one. In the end, it turned as one of the best things we have done, having both sunny and snowy holiday, 2 in 1.
We split the holiday in 1-5-3, this is not a football match strategy, just taking the best of both worlds. As every year we booked this holiday via SnowTrex.com, and since we have found this service, our winter trips are way easier. We never travel to ski trips by car, so this is the perfect accommodation and ski pass bundle. Usually we go skiing in the first week of March, but due other family plans, this year we needed to take the first week in January. Difference, is that 6 days of skiing in March equals to 4 days skiing in January. I mean, it also depends on the destination, but usually March is not the peak holiday season.
Our first day in Barcelona was very slow, we took the regional train and went to a calm beach in El Masnou, and spent the night wandering around El Born supping vermouth and picking tapas. Organisational wise what we did is, had an accommodation on the metro line that goes to direclty without changes to the bus meeting point. Does this count as a travel hack?
To get to Andorra there are options to book direct bus to your ski centre via Andbus, with pickup points airport or Zona Universitaria in Barcelona. You can also book it directly via the website of your ski resort (it gets a bit cheaper) Or if you want to see Andorra la Vella, there is the DirectBusAndora or Flixbus options, and then take a bus from there. Since our ski resort was Pas de la Casa (which is almost France) return ticket per person was 77 euros. Super comfy buses, going through picturesque Catalan villages.
Arriving in Andorra, my heart was so stiff, because I wasn’t seeing any snow. Until we reached Pas de la Casa. And the next days were pure pleasure. In our companionship one is in charge for the technical stuff, maps, slopes, rests, and I am in charge of the good stuff, the restaurants on the slopes, picturesque sights and capturing the memories. Quite the team.
The first day we were skiing only in the Pas de la Casa & Grau Roig Area, these two tend to get less sunny in the afternoon, so the next days we went in the direction of Soldeu and El Tarter. Our actual ride in the El Tarter direction was because we wanted to checkout the Veuve Clicquot Terrace, but on the way there we found even more amazing things like slopes with 40-60 marks. Very very long ones.
The weather was not as I am used to, meaning it was a bit hotter than expected, and melted snow happened on some slopes, but having in mind the size of the ski center this was not a big deal.
Lunch and snacks on the slopes were happening regularly. We tried 3 Estanys at Grau Roig, Veuve Cliqot Terrrace at El Tarter, Refugi del Llac de Pessons in the Grau Roig area and had own snacks in the free El Tarter area next to the telecabins. The main apres-ski center that I spotted was in Coll blanc KSB between Pas de la Casa and Grau Roig, and in the passage of Duna Blanca Hotel in Pas de la Casa. As for night parties I think Marselle and Paddy’s Pub were the tops, but I only do daily plans, I can’t say if they were good or bad. Probably the usual apres-ski vibe.
My personal favourite from the slopes was Refugi del Llac de Pessons. It was a bit on the higher end, but they had dishes typical for Andorra and the Pyrenees, as the meat soup and trinxat. They had high quality wine for very reasonable price and they had chairs in which you can put your snow equipment. What is not to like.
From the city spots, the best dinner for me was in the Los Calvi (La Familia) restaurant. We went for their dry aged stakes, stayed for the whole menu, tried half of it, and couldn’t breath afterwards. The staff was super sympathetic and their chorizo “detail for the guests” was out of this world.
Souvenirs wise, we only bough fridge magnets, even though we were hoping for cheese, jam and chocolate. But as the shop owners were saying: “Todo es importado”.
The last 3 days of the trip were reserved for taking easy Barcelona. Zero sight-seeing, 100% getting lost and food-consuming. It was a blast as the city can be, but this time for me super special, as I’ve never been here in January, blue sky, 20 degrees and no jacket on. I recommend it to everyone, and especially at this time of the year – winter.
As I have already said Barcelona is any time of the year gem here, but now I even created a guide with my favourite places, foods and drinks. Check it out and enjoy the tapas.