A weekend in Andorra
Andorra is a microstate on the border between Spain and France (or, well, Catalunya and France). All of the country is in the Pyrenees, consisting only of mountains, great for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
Andorra is about 3-4 hours away from Barcelona by car. Perfect for a weekend trip. This summer I finally decided to visit it. I definitely needed some time in the mountains :)
Arriving in Andorra
I left after work on a Friday evening. I took a bus which was very comfortable and had wifi. I enjoyed the views - I was able to see the massive Montserrat from a distance and then watch as we drove into the Pyrenees. The north of Catalunya was lined with small villages made entirely out of stone houses.
I arrived in Andorra la Vella (the tiny capitol of Andorra) around 11pm and went straight to my hotel. The city was even smaller than I expected, it was also very nice and clean.
Vall del Madriu
On my first days, I hiked to the valley of the Madriu river. The trail started just outside of the city. It was a very pretty trail, following the river up into the mountain. It was not difficult, but it kept steadily going uphill.
I did my first break near a pretty stone bridge and some waterfalls.
I decided to explore this area a bit, and found a small stone hut and it's inhabitant - a black cat :) The cat started purring and wanted to be pet. I spent about an hour relaxing in the sun on some massive stones with the cat lying next to me.
Afterwards I was back on the trail. Now I was walking through open green fields, with cows walking around and grazing the grass, like a Swiss post card. There were also small stone huts, but I didn't see anyone living there.
Also, I made friends with a butterfly that kept landing on my hands and shoulders!
About 4 hours into the hike, I reached the valley. It was beautiful and peaceful - much better than in the photos :)
I had lunch by the river, then laid on the grass for ages.
I had to start going back after this, since it was already late in the afternoon and I was tired. In total the hike took about 7-8 hours (but I had a couple of long breaks).
Back in my hotel, I had dinner and a shower, then passed out on the bed immediately. Another day of hiking was waiting for me tomorrow.
The next day, I got up early and took a bus to Vall d'Incles, which is on the other side of the country. It only took about 30 minutes to get there since Andorra is so small :)
I expected a village there, but actually there just some hotels and resorts, most of which were closed during the summer.
The hike started with a very nice and easy path through a picturesque valley, full of pretty flowers. There were lots of people walking around, and the stone huts were here once again.
After about 30 minutes of slow, relaxed walking, I reached the end of that path. The actual trail started here. Big rocks and tall pine trees began to appear. There were no more huts now.
Soon I got to a point where I had to start climbing up a steep hill. That's where the trail became difficult. Most people stopped here.
After climbing for one hour, I saw snow. I was already above 2000m of elevation. I passed several big waterfalls.
One more our of climbing and I was starting to get tired. I had to walk through the snow a couple of times. There was no tall vegetation now, only yellow grass and flowers. I was surrounded by massive cliffs, and the views down to the valley were incredible.
Finally - after a somewhat dangerous walk on a narrow snow-covered ledge - I reached my destination: Estany de l'Illa, a beautiful mountain lake.
After chilling here and admiring the lake for a while, I went to the Refugio to have a coffee. The Refugio is a hut that offers drinks and meals as well as bunk beds to spend the night here. There was also a nice hammock for everyone to use, the perfect place to relax :)
Finally, I started making my way back down. That was a lot easier than the climb up. Luckily I had good weather and didn't get rained on.
It was already dark by the time I arrived back in my hotel. I treated myself to a nice meal in the hotel's restaurant and an awesome desert, then passed out in my bed, very happy about my weekend hiking adventures.
Andorra la Vella
The next day was already time to leave. I had the bus back to Barcelona at 4pm, so I had time to enjoy the city.
Andorra la Vella is very small and I managed to explore it quickly. I went into some shops - as it's supposed to be a shopping destination - but the prices weren't that great and I didn't feel like carrying bags back to Barcelona.
However, I did enjoy the architecture and the views of the mountains around the city.
All in all, an enjoyable weekend trip for someone obsessed with mountains like me :)