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Gavin Explores - Andorra

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The dust has settled and it currently feels like it was months ago, but I’m 8 days on from getting back from an amazing week of skiing in the Andorran Pyrenees. In Arinsal, more specifically.

If you don’t know where Andorra is exactly, do not worry. Most people don’t. In fact, I didn’t until I first visited 5 years ago. It’s a tiny (like, really tiny.. it’s smaller than London) principality that lies between France and Spain.  For advanced skiers, it’s not the most exciting holiday, but for families and mixed abilities, it’s a really enjoyable place to visit. 

Another one of the biggest draws to Andorra is the cost. At the time of booking (Dec 2017) it worked £550pp for flights, accommodation (half board), ski pass and ski hire. This is fantastically cheap for a weeks skiing.

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Getting There

It’s relatively easy to get to. Previously we have flown into Barcelona, but this time we flew in to Lleida airport. This airport has been specifically built for skiers and mountain adventurers. It takes about 3 hours from the airport to Arinsal, one of the main towns serving the Vallnord resort.

As with most ski trips, we arranged ours through a tour company. This time it was all booked through skikings.com and our ski reps were from Neilson, the self proclaimed ‘mountain experts’. You are greeted at the airport by your rep, and they will make sure you get the right bus to your specific town.

Accommodation

Both times I’ve been I have stayed in a hotel included in the ski deal. Both times the hotels have been basic but more than satisfactory. Most deals will either offer you bed and breakfast or half board. This time we were in the Xalet Verdu, about 5 minutes walk (10 minutes when walking back up the hill) to the main mountain gondola. The food in Xalet Verdu was surprisingly good. A different choice of 3 mains per night, with special meals made for our gluten free and vegetarian skiers.

If you want to find somewhere else, there is a wide variety of choices of hotels ranging from cheap to rather fancy look.

Andorra 2

Eating & Drinking

Well, now we are talking. Apres ski is a major part of a ski trip, and for such a small town, Arinsal does not disappoint.

The Cabin is a lovely alpine like bar that serves a mean pizza and offers up live music.

The Derby Irish Pub is one of two bars which will fight for your patronage. Derby is your standard Irish bar. If you get a sticker, you get 50% your drinks in Happy Hour. Live music, bar games. Good craic. It also has a satellite bar up the mountain.

Ciscos – The other half of the fight. Ciscos is heaven and hell in one place. If you want a party, get to Ciscos. If you aren’t feeling it, you’re in the wrong place. Free nachos, and free shots to boot. You’ll be roped into a game of beer pong before you know. Also it’s two euros for a pint in Happy Hour, which is terrifying.

Factory – A really nice chilled bar. Right next to the gondola. Perfect for a post ski pint. Also great deal in Happy Hour.

Surf – We only went to Surf once, but it was a good bar, one of the larger bars in the town.

360 – A lovely little restaurant. We would often lunch there (you can only really buy beige food up the mountain, so getting the gondola down and eating something green was a treat). We also had a very delicious fondu on our last night. Lovely bottle of house red for 12 Euros.

La Tasca – A lovely wine bar. A little more up market than most of the Apres Bars. Well worth checking out, as it’s far more relaxed and has a wonderful choice of wines.

Aquarium Bar – Based in the Princess Hotel this absolutely bonkers cocktail bar (with an aquarium built into the actual bar) is a great place for a fancy cocktail. More expensive than the other places in the list, but if you’re going for a few drinks it’s worth the extra expense.

Andorra 3

Things To Do

Most ski passes will allow you to ski the piste in Arinsal and Pal, the other side of the mountain. To access the Pal slopes you either have to get the bus down, or access it by cable car from the very top of the mounting.

Spa – There is a number of spas if you want to soak your achey legs. We tried the spa in the Princess Hotel. For €15 you get 2 hours in a variety of hot and cold rooms/showers. Definitely worth the money to unwind and relax.

Andorra La Vella - This is the largest town nearby which is easily accessible by town bus. You can do plenty of shopping, eating and drinking here.

Why Go

Andorran skiing is definitely worth checking out. The Vallnord slopes offer a real variety of skill levels, with Pal offering more choice to Arinsal, but as long as you have a ski pass for both you should explore them equally.

Andorra is tax free, so eating and drinking (when you’re off the slopes) is quite cheap. This is quite rare for a ski resort.

Another big draw for me is that Andorra doesn’t come with the hoighty toighty ski tag that you can find in the alps. It’s very relaxed. It’s a really fun, family friendly place to go. AND IT WAS FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS FOR A WEEK FOR EVERYTHING. Find a deal. Go.

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