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Andorra

Andorra

Andorra is a tiny principality (a country ruled by a prince) located in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. It’s a popular destination for skiing and shopping.

Quick Facts

Capital: Andorra la Vella

Population: Approx. 77,000

Key Cities: Andorra la Vella, Escaldes-Engordany, Encamp, Sant Julià de Lòria

Official Language: Catalan

Major Religions: Roman Catholic

Geography

Bordering Countries: Spain, France

Size: 180 sq. miles

Lowest point: Runer River at 2,755 ft.

Highest point: Coma Pedrosa Peak at 9,665 ft.

Andorra is one of the world’s smallest independent countries. It’s located in the southern Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France.

The country is divided into seven parishes (small districts with their own church).

The land in Andorra is rough and mountainous, and it has several small mountain lakes and rivers. Because of its high mountain peaks, Andorra is a popular place for winter skiing.

Most of the time, Andorra has a moderate (average) climate, but its high elevation causes the winters to be severe (very cold).

For several months, the northern valleys are completely filled with snow. Summers in Andorra are warm and dry, and most of the country’s rain falls from October to May.

The mountains and forests of Andorra are home to wolves, bears, rabbits, and other small mammals. Because the country has only small rivers and streams, there’s very little sea life.

Birds such as eagles, vultures, and ducks can also be found in Andorra. There are about 3,500 species of plants in the Pyrenees region.

pyrenees

History

Andorra was originally created as a buffer state by the French emperor Charlemagne to keep the Moors out of France.

The Andorrans were supposed to protect France by fighting the Moors. In return for their protection, Charlemagne would grant Andorra a charter.

In the seventh century, Andorra was ruled by Charles the Bald, Charlemagne’s grandson. Andorra was given to several different rulers, sometimes as a gift and sometimes as part of a marriage.

In the eleventh century, there was an argument over whether Andorra was owned by France or Spain. To solve the problem, the French president and Spain’s Bishop of Urgell signed a pareage.

A pareage recognizes shared rights by two rulers. Today, Andorra is still ruled by French and Spanish co-princes, but there is also a prime minister and a Parliament.

coat-of-arms-andorra

Economy

Andorra’s biggest industry is tourism. Skiing and shopping are popular activities that attract about 13 million tourists each year.

Although Andorra is small, it’s home to over 270 hotels, 400 restaurants, and a large number of shops. Many goods in Andorra are duty-free, meaning people don’t have to pay taxes on them and can save money.

Banking, construction, and agriculture are also important industries. Top agricultural products include olives, grapes, potatoes, tobacco, rye, wheat, and sheep.

Despite its size and not having many natural resources, Andorra is one of the twenty-five richest countries in the world. Andorra is not part of the European Union, but its currency is the Euro.

euro-currency

Culture

About 90% of Andorra’s population is Roman Catholic, making Catholicism a major part of its culture. Romanic art is found in Andorra’s 50 Romanesque churches and in displays in Andorran museums.

Only about 37% of Andorra’s population are Andorran citizens. Immigrants from Spain, Portugal, and France make up most of the population, so the country is a melting pot of different cultures.

Catalan folk dances such as the contrapas and marraxta are proudly and enthusiastically performed at festivals and other events. Colorful folk stories and legends are another big part of life in Andorra.

Catalan culture is also apparent in Andorran food, including fresh vegetables, olive oils, wines, and a large variety of pork and fish dishes. Cheese, lamb, potatoes, cabbage, garlic, and nuts are also popular.

fresh-vegetables

Each March, the Big Snow Festival is held at Andorra’s Arinsal ski resort with live music, contests, and parties. Jazz festivals and village festivals are other popular celebrations in Andorra.

One very unique Andorran celebration is the International Women’s Clown Festival each May, which brings together female clowns and audience members from around the world, including the United States.

Famous Andorrans

Marc Bernaus- soccer player

Ramon Villero Castella- author

Marta Roure- singer

Oscar Sonejee- soccer player

Fun Facts About Andorra

The people of Andorra live very long lives. For men, the average life expectancy is about 80 years. For women, it’s 84.

Andorra is one of the few countries in the world with no airport. Visitors have to reach Andorra by land from either France or Spain.

andorra-map

Andorra hasn’t been in a war in almost 1,000 years. It’s one of very few countries that has never seen an American or British military presence, and it has no official army.

Andorra has an awesome unemployment rate: 0%! That means everyone who is able to work has a job.

Andorra is very unique: It’s the only nation in the world with Catalan as its official language. It’s also the only nation with a co-principality, meaning it’s ruled by two princes.

More Europe facts.