A tiny dot in the Pyrenees mountains sandwiched between Spain and France, Andorra may be easy to miss on a map, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in impact. High peaks and low prices—it’s also a duty-free zone—make this favorite winter escape popular for both shopping and skiing. More than 8 million tourists come to the slopes of this tiny country every year.
Despite being around half the size of Berlin, Andorra has slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities across its two main ski areas of Grandvalira and Vallnord, plus a nightlife to remember, or more likely forget. When you’re done raiding the virtually tax-free shops of the capital, Andorra la Vella, you can take to the skies and slopes here with a range of adrenaline-fuelled activities and runs that will challenge even the most seasoned skier. Although it may be small, it’s still good to know where to start exploring, so here’s our pick of the best ski resorts in Andorra.
Pas de la Casa
The excitement runs into the early hours in Pas de la Casa, which is part of the extensive Grandvalira ski area—the biggest ski resort in the Pyrenees and Southern Europe. It’s not only the highest resort in the Pyrénées, at an altitude of nearly 6,900 feet, it is also the liveliest. During the day, snowboarders can practice their skills at the board park and half-pipe or join beginners and intermediate skiers on the more than 62 miles of pistes and popular blue and red runs here. Its high altitude and large number of cannons guarantees good snow coverage until as late as the end of April. The fun doesn’t stop once the last lift has closed though—Pas de la Casa is widely known as Andorra’s après-ski capital. Brits and Irish skiers will feel particularly at home with a large number of themed bars looking to their shores for inspiration. Paddy’s Irish Bar, The Dubliner and Underground are all popular places to enjoy daily drinks and live music. If you’ve got any energy left after a day on the slopes, the resort’s Bilbord nightclub allows you to carry on dancing until the early hours every single night of the week, too.
More subdued than Pas de la Casa, Soldeu, which sits at the heart of the Grandvalira ski area, is a great alternative for families who want to ski in Andorra. At night, you’re more likely to find friendly restaurants and hotels serving the national dish of escudella—a hearty vegetable stew—and other Catalan classics rather than alcoholic shots on the main road that runs through this stone-clad village. Its popular ski school and kids classes also come highly recommended and make this a top choice for families. A favorite of beginner skiers and snowboarders too, you’ll find the main gondola station on the high street to connect you to its excellent nursery slopes and more than 60 wide blue and green runs. With 131 miles of slopes and a snowpark, there are challenges for all abilities and snowboarders too—although there are fewer for more experienced skiers.
Neighboring El Tarter is another laid-back Andorra resort focused on relaxation rather than raving. When you’ve clipped out for the day, you’ll find just a handful of restaurants and bars in this quiet village. The quantity doesn’t affect the quality though, especially at the refurbished L’Abarset restaurant, located at the foot of the slopes next to the El Tarter cable car. Designed to set a new benchmark for après-ski, its sustainable building was created to complement the natural environment and its all-day dining includes mountain breakfasts and evening tapas. Its outdoor, heated terrace is the real highlight though and the perfect place to enjoy a drink after a day on the slopes.
Also part of Grandvalira—the largest ski area in Andorra—El Tarter matches Soldeu in its appeal for families and first-time skiers. In addition to a good selection of gentle, tree-lined blue and green slopes, you’ll find more challenging red runs the higher up the mountain you go. There’s plenty to keep non-skiers busy too with one of the top snowparks in the Pyrenees, snowshoeing and dog sledding among the winter activities to try here. A short drive to nearby Grau Roig also offers the most fun you can have on a rubber ring with a spot of snowtubing.
Part of the Vallnord resort, which is open for skiing or biking for 10 months of the year, Arinsal in the north west of Andorra is also known for its acclaimed English-speaking skiing and snowboarding schools. With more than 200 multilingual instructors, it’s a great place to learn or hone your skills on the slopes. With much of the resort located above 6,233 feet, its high-altitude nursery slopes also provide ideal snowy conditions for beginners to practice on. Purchase a lift pass for Arinsal and the nearby resort of Pal and you’ll have access to 39 miles of mainly red and blue runs, too.
Just as the ski schools cater for an array of international students here, the village restaurants and bars create their menus with international tastes in mind too. You’ll find dishes from Mexico, Italy, Argentina and Britain all feature and live performances of all kinds of music. For anything else you’re craving, the capital Andorra la Vella is less than 10 kilometers away—making this the top Andorra ski resort for splitting your time between the city and the slopes.
For a different kind of challenge in Vallnord, pick the village of Pal for your next skiing holiday in Andorra. It may be the quieter sibling when it comes to après-ski but it definitely knows how to get your blood pumping on the slopes. Connected to Arinsal by a cable car, it is not only home to some steep red slopes and off-piste black runs, but an array of high-adrenaline activities. You can see the mountain from a whole new perspective by paragliding, driving a snowmobile or even jumping on a helicopter ride from here. With 296 snow cannons, you can also be confident there will be snow on nearly 19 miles of the slopes in Pal and neighboring Arinsal from November to April, too.
After dark, the pace does slow considerably though in Pal with only a few restaurants and hotels in the village to explore. Fortunately, Arinsal and its constantly growing après-ski scene is only a 10-minute taxi ride away.