Andorra

yapan:: Iyna Bort Caruso

Andorra, the relatively secreted principality in the eastern Pyrenees mountains, can make a boast-worthy claim: it has one of the world’s highest life expectancies.

Life here is not only long, but comfortable. Crime is low, unemployment is low and the euro, the de facto currency, goes further in this landlocked nation than in neighboring Spain and France.

Andorrans are actually a minority in their own country, making up only about a third of the population. The rest are mainly Spaniards, Portuguese and French. Catalan is the official language.

The lack of an international airport has kept Andorra an under-the-radar destination, although major hub cities like Barcelona, Spain, and Toulouse, France, are less than 150 miles away. Andorra’s profile has become more visible in recent years because of its private banking industry and uptick in tourism, particularly from its ski industry. The small Principality enjoys a high mountain Mediterranean climate with reliable snowfall and some 300 days of sunshine. The government has invested heavily in its ski infrastructure, and skiers have returned the favor by investing in vacation-home townhouses and chalets.

The country is made up of seven parishes with Andorra la Vella as the capital, the highest in Europe. Canillo, just northeast of Andorra la Vella, has gondola links to the country’s main ski resort of Grandvalira, which is the largest ski area on the Iberian Peninsula. The parish of Ordino is known for its culture, cuisine and protected character homes. Traditional Pyrenean residences feature low-rise architecture of timber, slate and rough-hewn stone. The effect is rustic and husky. The noted spa town of Escaldes-Engordany features some of the country’s best-preserved examples of granite architecture. The granite architecture movement began in 1930s at a time when Andorra started shifting from a rural society to a more urban one. The arrival of Spanish stonemasons led this new century Catalan style in which granite mined from Andorran quarries became a leading design element in residential facades.

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