While the cuisine in Andorra is often likened to the Catalan cuisine, with its added bonus of French flavours and unique cooking methods, it does deserve a category in its own right. The exclusively traditional, mountain-style gastronomy famed in the Pyrenees has been enriched in Andorra, with much more variety. Set between two countries well-known for their gastronomic products and reputation, you can expect to find hundreds of cheeses, wines, foie gras, Iberian ham, baby squid, piquant potatoes, octopus Galician style, and much more.
The region has cleverly married the best of these local products and traditional recipes with new techniques and experiences. While in the mountains, you can take a meal in a typical rural inn called a borda, and be welcomed warmly by hospitable staff and homely decor or you can try some haute cuisine in one of the many exclusive restaurants offering unique gastronomic experiences. Find your way round the menu with our guide to Andorran cuisine.
So what’s on the menu?
The status of escargots – called, in Catalan, “cargols” – approaches that of national dish in Andorra. Snails are typically served as an appetiser and charred in wood or coal ovens, sometimes sauced, but usually kept plain.
Catalan spinach is particularly delicious in Andorra due to its mountainous location. At its simplest, it is sauteed greens with raisins and pine nuts and a little black pepper.
One of the most famous and popular dishes in Andorra is Trinxat, which is basically an alpine take on ‘bubble and squeak’. As is the standard in a mountainous climate, the locals learned to make the most of what crops grow best on poor soil and at altitude, so potato frequently features in Andorran dishes. Equally, so does pork, as the mountainous landscape also means that grazing land for cattle is at a minimum. Trinxat, meaning chopped in Catalan, is then a hearty mash of potatoes and cabbage, fried in a skillet-sized cake and garnished with fat back or smoky bacon.
The most surprising thing about Andorran food is the emphasis on seafood.Mountains always mean trout, so that’s a given, but the rest of the seafare on the menu seems more attuned to the coast than to the stream. Squid and octopus – “calamar i pop” – are very popular, as are cod (“bacallà”), and anchovies (“seitons”), the Atlantic staples.
Andorra is intriguing. And I mean this for more reasons than one; not only are its snowy, white peaks sandwiched in a geopolitical anomaly between France and Spain, but its capital town, Andorra la Vella, has become such an enormous hub of consumerism that there are now more than 2000 shops in its vicinity – that’s more than one per every 40 inhabitants.
Along with that comes the best skiing in the Pyrenees, loaded with resorts that have invested over €50 million in the last five years, adding in mountain cafés and restaurants, chairlifts and gondolas, car parks and even snow-making machines. More than solely a winter destination, when the snow melts, Andorra offers plenty to see and do. Enjoy our Andorra travel guide!
When to go to Andorra
Andorra is an all-year round destination, with skiing in winter and hiking, nature trails and canyoning the rest of the year. It has a typical mountain climate; warm in summer with temperatures dropping in the evening and sunny, but cool winter days.
In summer, visit the town of Canillo, one of the highest in Andorra. Here, travellers can go ice-skating at Palau de Gel, potter around pretty mountain villages, go fishing in the Valira d’Orient river, wallow in its thermal waters or hike along Andorra’s many well-marked trails.
For skiers visiting in the winter months, Andorra offers vertical drops of up to 1000m and runs of several kilometres over open slopes and groomed pistes. Beginners and experts are both well catered for and lift costs are low when compared with the Alps.
The best skiing resorts in Andorra
Grandvalira Grandvalira is located in the north-east of Andorra, in the parishes of Encamp and Canillo. It is the largest skiable area in Southern Europe, with 205 km of slopes. Why not stay in the Grandvalira Igloo Hotel, a2,300m high igloo that offers with a Snowcat trip, welcome cocktail, dinner, tea, water, a night-time outing (snowshoes), jacuzzi, downhill ski run or by chairlift and breakfast.
Vallnord Vallnord is located in in the parishes of La Massana and Ordino and is home to three main skiing sectors: Pal, Arinsal and Arcalís. There are ample things to do throughout the week and over the weekend; think mushing, skimobiles, sleighs, skibikes, speedriding, panoramic flights, heliskiing, under-ice diving, outings and night-time fondues.
Soldeu El Tarter Soldeu El Tarter is a lively and friendly village. The ski resort has become very popular with British skiers due to its relaxed ambiance and great après-ski activities.
Naturlandia Naturlandia is located in the forest of La Rabassa in the parish of Sant Julià de Lòria. This snow park offers sensational winter activities for all the family, along with exceptional panoramic views, a children’s park, an ice rink and a village of Nordic dogs. There’s also the Tobotronc (see below).
Things to do in Andorra
Aside from skiing, Andorra offers some incredible activity options. Take these for example:
Walking Tours There are plenty of summer activities to be had in Ordino and its surroundings, particularly if you enjoy hiking and nature trails. Walks can range from easy strolls to demanding day hikes in the higher, more remote reaches of the principality.
Tobotronc at Naturlandia One of the main attractions at Naturlandia is the Tobotronc, the world’s longest Alpine coaster, spanning 5.3 km. The Tobotronc offers a journey through the beautiful alpine forest, seated in a comfortable two-seater sleigh you control at all times.
Mushing (not to be confused with moshing) is the ideal activity for all the family. Enjoy being carried by these dog-sledges or learn how to drive them yourself. This activity helps you discover how huskies behave, the commands to give so that they obey you and, at the same time, to enjoy gliding through the spectacular Pal landscape on the sleighs.
Located in the heart of the fertile valleys of Andorra, Andorra la Vella is a well known shopping destination because of the great prices (no taxes). You can find pretty much anything you like here, with guests often buying items such as cigarettes and perfumes in bulk. However, reducing the city to a simple shopping trip would be a mistake as it is rich in unspoiled nature and remarkable historic sites. While it’s worth it to travel to Andorra for extended shopping experiences, it is also nice to randomly wander its narrow streets and discover the historical heritage they contain.
Cheap options for accommodation in Andorra are tricky to find and relatively low on charm. To add insult to injury, prices get even steeper during the July and August months, and then again between December and March. One solution is to camp; Andorra offers plenty of well-located sites, while walkers can stay for free at one of Andorra’s many mountain refuges (refugis). However, if you do have a little bit of extra cash to spend on your holiday, Andorra has some outstanding hotels. Aside from the incredible Grandvalira Igloo Hotel, our favourite is the Magic Pas Hotel in Pas de las Casa, which sits directly on top of the slopes.
Andorra food & drink
Food in Andorra is mainly of Catalan origin, with a heavy emphasis on meat and cheese. Dishes such as Carn a la brasa (beef, lamb or pork grilled over an open fire) and truita (fresh river trout) are firm favourites in the region, while typical Andorran dishes are trinxat, a cabbage, potato and bacon cake and escudella, a chicken, sausage and meatball stew. Vegetarians should stock up on the pa amb tomàquet (bread with olive oil, garlic and tomato) as veggie dishes are somewhat hard to find in Andorra.