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Nestled high in the Pyrenees Mountains, the tiny country of Andorra borders both France and Spain. Also known as the ‘Principality of the Valleys of Andorra’, Andorra is well known for its rugged beauty with unique mountain walking, offering unforgettable views over vast lakes and lush countryside. The highest mountain in Andorra is Coma Pedrosa at a sizeable 2943 metres! Its capital city, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe and is characterised by its Romanesque old stone streets, the striking church of Saint Stephen and its historic parliamentary building. Andorra has been a member of the United Nations (UN) since 1993, and although not a member of the European Union (EU), the Euro has been their official currency since 1999, before which they used the French franc and the Spanish peseta. The official language of Andorra is Catalan however the majority of Andorrans are trilingual, so as well as Catalan, many are also fluent in Spanish, French or Portuguese; English is also very widely spoken. The Andorran cuisine also takes on many influences from its neighbouring countries serving delicious dishes of cured meats, fresh fish and hearty mountain stews.

The Andorran flag was officially adopted in 1866. It features three equal vertical bands of blue, yellow and red with the national coat of arms in the centre. These colours are said to represent Andorra’s independence from both France and Spain. Their national motto is set underneath their coat of arms and reads ‘Virtus Unita Fortior’, meaning ‘United Virtue is Stronger’.

Geography

Andorra is very mountainous with approximately 65 peaks, some of which are over 2000m high making Andorra one the highest countries in Europe. Consisting of a cluster of mountain valleys whose streams unite to form the Valira River, Andorra’s land area is characterised by glacial landscapes, steep valleys and open pastures.

History

Tiny, landlocked Andorra, almost hidden in the high Pyrenees has been a co-principality since the 13th century with two princes as heads of state – France’s president and Spain’s Bishop of La Seu d’Urgell (a historic town just south of Andorra). Andorra created a parliament in 1993 which limited the power of the co-princes and transferred most of the power to General Council. This government was newly empowered to raise revenues through taxation, to create an independent judiciary. The co-princes remained the heads of state, though this role was largely ceremonial. With only a small proportion of Andorra’s land arable, the traditional economy centred on the pasturing of sheep and the harvesting of small quantities of tobacco, rye, wheat, grapes and potatoes. Nowadays, their economy relies largely on tourism, international banking and tax-free shopping.

Climate

The Andorran climate is of Mediterranean mountainous type, with hot summers and cold winters with considerable snowfalls. The average minimum is -2oc and the maximum 24oC. Snowfalls are frequent and the rain is concentrated mainly in the months of October and May.

Flora and Fauna

Some of the most frequently found animals in Andorra are the marmot, the ‘pallaresa’ lizard, the squirrel, the boar and many birds of prey such as the bearded vulture. Just like the fauna, the flora is highly varied. You’ll find strawberries, wild mushrooms and a large number of hazelnut trees. Over the years, many areas have become protected from hunting and fishing to preserve the natural wealth here, resulting in the growth of many nature parks.

 

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