Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status that encourages duty-free shopping. Capital Andorra la Vella has boutiques and jewellers on Meritxell Avenue and several shopping centres. The old quarter, Barri Antic, houses Romanesque Santa Coloma Church, with a circular bell tower.

An autonomous and semi-independent coprincipality, Andorra has been under the joint suzerainty of the French state and the Spanish bishops of Urgel since 1278. It maintains closer ties to Spain, however, and Catalán is its official language. In the late 20th century, Andorra became a popular tourist and winter sports destination and a wealthy international commercial center because of its banking facilities, low taxes, and lack of customs duties. In 1990 Andorra approved a customs union treaty with the EU permitting free movement of industrial goods between the two, but with Andorra applying the EU’s external tariffs to third countries. Andorra became a member of the UN in 1993 and a member of the Council of Europe in 1994. In 2002, Andorra shut down an incinerator that was emitting 1,000 times the dioxin levels permitted by the EU.

On June 3, 2009, Jaume Bartumeu was elected the new head of government with 14 votes in the 28-seat Parliament.

Andorra consists of a cluster of mountain valleys whose streams unite to form the Valira River. Two of these streams, the Madriu and the Perafita, flow into the Madriu-Perafita-Claror valley, which occupies about one-tenth of Andorra’s land area and is characterized by glacial landscapes, steep valleys, and open pastures. The valley was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Andorra has traditionally had a strong affinity with the region of Catalonia in northern Spain. Andorra’s official language is Catalan (Spanish and French are also spoken); its institutions are based in Catalonian law, and a large proportion of the Spanish immigrants (or their descendants) in Andorra are Catalan. Most Andorrans are Roman Catholic; Andorra is part of the diocese of Urgel. Roughly nine-tenths of the population is classified as urban, and more than half of residents are foreign nationals, mainly from Spain, France, and Portugal.

Although not a member of the European Union, Andorra has used the euro as its de facto primary currency since 2002. In July 2011 Andorra concluded a monetary agreement with the EU that made the euro its official currency, although the Andorran government was not granted the power to issue its own euro banknotes. No railway system exists, but good roads link Andorra with France and Spain, and the principality is served by a small airport in Seo de Urgel, Spain. 

Location: situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains.

Capital: Andorra La Vella

Population: 79,300 




Andorra’s climate is typical for a mountainous country; it has cold winters and mild summers. The climate is very dry, with a large number of sunny days. Autumn experiences the most rainfall, while in winter is has good skiing conditions. The average temperature range is between -2 degrees Celsius and 24 degrees Celsius. 

Around 120 million tourists visit the Alps every year making the impact of tourism on Alpine nature considerable. New waves of ‘mass tourism’ threaten to destroy pristine wildlife areas – the very thing that attracts tourists in the first place.

A top industry in the Alps, tourism is also a major driver of urbanisation. Large tourist resorts have an area consumption rate that is far greater than that of a non-tourist community. In addition, touristic areas also experience an increase in motor traffic. This is especially problematic for remote and sensitive Alpine regions which would otherwise be safe from urban sprawl.

Now, modern adventure sports (mountain-biking, canyoning, or paragliding) and some motor-based leisure activities are entering areas previously untouched by tourism. This is causing major disturbances to wildlife in the Alps and poses very direct threats to biodiversity.

One of the most ecologically devastating forms of leisure activities in the Alps is winter ski tourism. There are currently about 300 ski areas throughout the Alps where 10,000 transport facilities serve more than 3,400 km² of ski areas. The construction of ski runs causes irreparable damage to the landscape. The increasing use of snow canons sets off additional problems by their use of water, energy, and chemical and biological additives.

But not all forms of tourism threaten Alpine nature. In fact, sustainably designed tourism can be used instead to promote the protection of natural areas in the Alps. 

The climate in Andorra varies greatly with elevation. The valleys have a climate that is similar to the temperate climate of Andorra’s neighbours, but because of the higher elevation, winters tend to be more severe, the humidity lower, and summers slightly cooler. Regions above the Alpine tree line at about 2,100–2,400 m (6,890–7,874 ft) have an alpine climate and alpine tundra. Snow completely covers the northern valleys for several months. There are, on average, 300 days per year of sunshine. Average daily peak insolation varies from 1150 W/m2 in June to 280 W/m2 in December.

The average annual temperature varies from 11 °C  in Sant Julià de Lòria in the south, to 8 °C  in La Massana in the centre, and to 2 °C  in Arcalis in the north. The average daily high and low temperatures in Escaldes-Engordany are, respectively, 28 °C  and 15 °C  in July, and 11 °C and −2 °C  in January.

Average annual precipitation is 1,071.9 mm  for the whole country, but it varies across the country, increasing with elevation and from south to north. The driest parish is Sant Julià de Lòria (800 mm or 31.5 in per year) in the south, and the wettest is Canillo (1,100 mm or 43.3 in per year) in the north. Annual precipitation can exceed 1,220 mm (48 in) the highest mountainous areas. The driest months tend to be January and February, and the wettest, May, June, and November. During the summer months, there are very few rainy days, but the rainfall can be very heavy because it is associated with thunderstorms. 


The environment of Andorra was once heavily forested. One explanation for the name of the country is that it came from the Moorish word aldarra, meaning place thick with trees. Andorra’s mountainous environment attracts 12 million tourists each year. In recent decades, however, the forested area has been decreasing steadily. Overgrazing of mountain meadows by sheep, with consequent soil erosion, is another environmental problem. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 1 type of mammal: the common otter. The Apollo butterfly and the lesser horseshoe bat are vulnerable species. 

There is no state religion; however, the Constitution acknowledges a special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, which receives some privileges, although no direct subsidies, not available to other religious groups. There are no reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious belief or practice. 

The official language is Catalan. Spanish and French are also spoken. 

Andorra’s food is typically Catalan, and has strong French and Italian flavours. Meat, in the form of lamb, game, pork, fish and poultry, is an important part of the local diet, and is usually served with pastas, sauces, potatoes and some vegetables. Among Andorra’s specialties are trinxat -bacon cooked with potatoes and cabbage; escudella – a chicken stew with sausages and meatballs; tender dandelion salad; formatge de tupi -cheese fermented with garlic and brandy; and cunillo – rabbit cooked in a tomato sauce. Andorra’s terrain is so inhospitable that virtually nothing grows in the country- all foodstuffs have to be imported. 

When introduced, expect to shake hands. Many men use a two-handed shake where the left hand is placed on the right forearm of the other person. Male friends typically embrace and pat each other on the shoulder. Female friends kiss each other on both cheeks (starting with the left). If invited to someone’s home, it is customary to bring a small gift such as chocolates, pastries, or cakes; wine, liqueur, brandy or flowers.