andorra’s seven parishes and alpine villages

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The Principality of Andorra [also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra] is a tiny nation located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe, having an area of 181 square miles [468 square kilometers]. The population is approximately 85,000.

Outside of the capital of Andorra La Vella with its tax free shopping, the country is dotted with small alpine villages all contained within one of seven Parishes which serve as the regional administrative authorities under the national government. The Parishes are named after the town serving as the Parish’s capital. They are: Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra La Vella [the capital], Sant Julia de Loria, and Escaldes Engordany [next to the capital].

During my travels outside of the capital, I happened upon a few of these small villages, and they were all quite picturesque – all fantastic settings from which to sip a latte and marvel at the beautiful scenery.

The town of Ordino, with a population of just over four thousand, is perhaps Andorra’s most picturesque village with old stone buildings, cobbled streets, and outdoor cafes. Ordino’s main square is adjacent to a quaint Romanesque Church and bell-tower, where street theatre and concerts are performed during the summer. A lively arts scene is one of the reasons Ordino is considered the cultural heart of Andorra. The region around Ordino is also home to the Arcalis Ski area that forms part of the Vall Nord sector.

If you accept the challenge to venture your way from Spain or France through the mountains to Andorra, it is well worth taking the time to explore the small villages that will transport you to another place and time.

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