Fun and Interesting Facts about Andorra

Andorra is a tiny country, which lies between France and Spain, right in the middle of the Pyrenees. Despite its size, there are many fun and interesting facts about Andorra. Here are 20 of the most fascinating facets of this pint-sized country.

1. The first documented mention of Andorra dates back to the year 843. It is a precept of Emperor Charles the Bald in which he gives his faithful Sunifred, Count of Urgell, among others, the valley of Andorra.

2. There is not one head of state… but two. The co-princes, according to the Constitution of 1993 and the Andorran institutional tradition, are the heads of state of the Principality of Andorra, a position they hold jointly and undividedly. They are the Bishop of Urgell, currently Archbishop in his personal capacity, and the President of the French Republic. Both represent the spirit of parity in relations with the Kingdom of Spain and the French Republic.

3. 90% of the Andorran territory is pure nature. There are not many places in the world boasting such a high percentage of forests. Andorra is a true green paradise with three natural parks (Sorteny, between Ordino and Alcalís; Comapedrosa, and Vall del Madriu), about seventy lakes, and 65 peaks over 2,500 meters high. To enjoy total immersion in this exuberant nature, there are thirty mountain chalets (refuges) scattered throughout Andorra, most of them free of charge. Cabana Sorda, Siscaró, and Ensagents are some of the must visit.

4. The highest golf course in Europe is located in Andorra – Grandvalira Golf Soldeu. With nine holes, play with spectacular views at 2,250 meters. From spring to October, Sport Hotels Resort & Spa is transformed into the luxurious Resort de Golf & Spa, with green, spectacular views. The golf field is easily accessible, in a few minutes, by the cable car that leaves from the hotels. Due to its characteristics, experts and beginners are more than welcome.

5. Andorra is one of the few places where you can practice scuba diving under the ice. Put on your wetsuit and fins and go for a dive… in the middle of the Pyrenees? The dives, in frozen lakes located at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters, last about twenty minutes, during which you swim at a temperature of about three degrees below zero. The Forn de Canillo lake, in Grandvalira, two high mountain lakes, Tristaina and Cabana Sorda, and the Canaleta lake are some of the places where you can practice.

6. Principality of Andorra comes with one of the largest collections of bibles in the world. An impressive collection, with almost 1,300 copies of bibles translated into more than a thousand different languages. Pere Roquet has been collecting them for decades and gave them to the Archpriesthood of Andorra. Thanks to the agreement, the room of the chimney of the sanctuary basilica of Meritxell was adapted to install the permanent exhibition, baptized as Bibles of the world.

7. You can ‘float’ over the landscape at the Roc del Quer viewpoint in Canillo. From a 20-meter footbridge suspended in the air over the valley of Montaup and d’Orient, only eight meters sit on solid ground, but the other twelve are a ledge suspended in the air.

8. Andorra has never been at war, Principality of Andorra does not even have an army. If that were not enough, in terms of crime, Andorra is one of the safest countries in the world. The Principality has always been an island of peace, even when half the European continent was engaged in long conflicts.

9. Principality enjoys one of the oldest and the smallest parliament in Europe. Parliament has origins in the Consell de la Terra, created in 1419 and reformed in 1866. Consists of a minimum of 28 and a maximum of 42 members, who are elected in a mixed form: half by parish constituency and half by national constituency (now there are 28). The Casa de la Vall was the parliamentary seat from 1702 until 2011 when it was moved to the new building. Currently, the Casa de la Vall can be visited as a historical place.

10. Are you fancy a glass of wine from Andorra? Principality has the wine produced at the highest altitude in Europe. The beverage takes an advantage of the harshness and altitude of the terrain. Taste sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir, and albariño. Andorra also has its own craft beers and even mead. As for the gastronomic particularities of the country, some of the dishes that we can enjoy in Andorra are trinxat, wild boar civet, and chicory salad of Canillo.

11. 10% of the Andorran territory states as a World Heritage Site. In 2004, UNESCO declared the Vall del Madriu-Pedrafita-Claror park a World Heritage Site in the Cultural Landscape category. Valley became part of an exclusive club since less than a hundred sites on the planet have this prestigious recognition. The park covers an area of 4,247 ha, 10% of the total area of Andorra, and extends over the parishes of Encamp, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julià de Lòria and Escaldes-Engordany.

12. Andorra is the only country in the world where Catalan is the official language. Andorra’s own, national and official language is Catalan. The principality is the only territory, where Catalan is the only official language and the only state in the world that has it as an official language. Among Andorran nationals, the percentage of people whose mother tongue is Catalan is over 60%.

13. Do you know the story of Boris Skossyreff I, king of Andorra?  Undoubtedly, the most extravagant episode in the history of Andorra was starred by Baron Boris Skossyreff. After fleeing Russia in 1917, this adventurer arrived in Andorra, displaying his charm and speaking several languages, with the (at first delirious) goal of becoming a king. Boris promised freedom and modernization of the country thanks to the establishment of a tax haven and foreign investments. Surprisingly, he convinced the Consell General, which voted in favor of the monarchy proposed by Skossyreff. Boris crowned himself king and lieutenant to the king of France. The only councilor of 24 who opposed went to the palace of the bishop of La Seu (co-prince of Andorra) to inform him of the situation. The Consell General became a parliament and drafting of a constitution was announced, decreeing absolute political, religious, and fiscal freedom. The Parliament again voted in favor of the monarchy with the same result (23 to 1). The joke ended when a group of Spanish civil guards sent by the bishop of La Seu arrested Skossyreff and expelled him from the country.

14. Eat in a traditional borda with a special atmosphere. The bordas are isolated rustic constructions very typical of Andorra, with a slate roof and stone walls. Bordas usually have two floors; the first floor was used to house the livestock, and the upper floor to store the hay collected in summer and agricultural tools. Currently, many have been transformed into restaurants, where we can taste traditional Andorran cuisine, with typical architecture, in many cases retaining the troughs for animals and fireplaces.

15. Stone, omnipresent on the facades. From the 1930s, with the arrival of the first tourists and foreigners, what is known as granite architecture began to be applied in Andorra. Buildings were integrated into the natural environment, with local stone on facades. From then until today, construction has been regulated, year after year, with different decrees and laws. The Technical Commission of Urbanism regulates the recommended materials to be used in all new buildings, which are stone and slate.

16. Andorra has 100% fiber-optic Internet coverage, no matter how far the town may be. Even the remotest corner with few inhabitants is equipped with high-speed internet access.

17. Grandalla is the symbolic flower of Andorra. The Narcissus poeticus, known in the Principality as grandalla, is the national flower of Andorra. Mountainous orography and climate with the predominating sun is home to a wide variety of flora typical of the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, with approximately 1,530 species. The grandalla is one of the most common and showy.

18. Cows on the flag. The Andorran flag is the only flag in the world with two cows embedded. The official flag was established in 1866 and mixes the colors of the French and Catalan flags. Vertical tricolor, blue, yellow, and red, almost the same as those of Moldavia, Chad, and Romania, with the Andorran coat of arms in the middle.

19. 39.5 years is the average age of the Andorra population, much younger in comparison to the European neighbors. The Andorran birth rate is below the European average, as is the mortality rate since many immigrants returned to their country of origin during the last stage of their lives. As a result, the proportions of the young and population over 65 years of age are lower than the European averages.

20. Less than half of the inhabitants are Andorran. The population estimated by the Department of Statistics is slightly over 78,000 inhabitants, of which only half are autochthonous. The rest are foreigners, mainly from Spain, Portugal, and France, who arrived mainly between the early sixties and the nineties. The population is concentrated mainly in the central parishes of Andorra.