Nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees, Andorra is the perfect base for an activity-filled week in the mountains. The walking is fantastic, with opportunities to scale local peaks, relax by lakes, explore Incles Valley, and spot marmots and mountain ponies. Jump into vehicles and follow an old smugglers’ route into Spain for an action-packed whitewater rafting trip. Cycle off-road amidst breathtaking Pyrenean scenery, stopping at farming hamlets and rural villages en route. For those with a head for heights, there’s a chance to whizz through the air on zip wires too!
A fun and active family holiday involving kayaking, mountain walking, biking and zip-lining centred in the spectacular Spanish Pyrenees. Stay in a restored farmhouse in the delightful medieval town of Berdun for comfortable and relaxing evenings.
The Pyrenees is the large mountain range which separates northern Spain from the rest of Europe, and is fascinating for its stunning natural landscapes. The range is 450 km long, reaching from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean. It is a natural frontier where water, forests and valleys dominate the landscape, and where many an exciting sensation awaits you, because the Pyrenees is synonymous with excitement and adventure. The Pyrenees is a mountain range in the north of the regions of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre. This area of high mountains is home to some of Spain's most beautiful landscapes.
Andorra is located in the middle of the Pyrenees between Spain and France. It is one of the most mountinous areas in Europe as well as being one of the smallest countries covering just 468 km2. The highest point in Andorra is 'el pico de Coma Pedrosa', which is 2942 metres above sea level and the lowest point is on the border with Catalunya at 838 metres above sea level. Andorra is characterized by its mountinous landscape. Andorra is a prosperous country mainly because of its tourism industry, which services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually.
Start Toulouse; transfer to Andorra
After flights will meet at the meeting point and join the transfer. Along the way, you can marvel at the impressive mountain scenery that surrounds you as you wind your way up over the border into Andorra. Situated on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, squashed between France and Spain, the principality of Andorra measures a mere 25km by 30km, and has an average elevation of 1,996 metres. Andorra’s independence can be traced back to Charlemagne, who captured the region from the Muslims in 803AD. It was only in 1993 that the Andorran people voted to establish the country as an independent and democratic state. Although small, Andorra is blessed with some of the finest scenery in the Pyrenees and is a great place for an active week in the mountains.
Hill walking around Pessons Lake
This morning you will take your first excursion out into the impressive mountains of this tiny country. The drive to Port Envalira takes approximately 30 minutes and at 2,408 metres is boasted as being the highest road pass in Europe, helping to connect El Pas de la Casa to the rest of the country. Starting at 2,500m you have a short 100m climb to the summit of Pic Maia. At this height there are spectacular views across the Andorran mountains. From here the rest of the day is a ridge walk. Being mostly flat or downhill, this is a great introduction to the Pyrenees, and a chance to stretch your legs and acclimatize to the altitude. The scenery is stunning and the walk will hopefully give you the chance to see some of Andorra’s flora and fauna. It is always worth keeping an eye out for the griffon vultures which are often seen circling high overhead. On the way you will pass the Siscaro Lakes which on hotter days, are a pleasant place to have a swim.
Bike along the ‘Iron Route’ in the Ordino Valley
Today’s full day of activities take place in the stunningly beautiful Cortals Valley, about a 30 minute drive away. Half-way up the valley you jump on the bikes for a ride along a flat track to the Engolasters Lake giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Around the lake there are plenty of fun tracks to be taken and you normally have the choice between an easy flat track and a more exciting path through the woods. For those slightly less energetic there is also a lakeside bar.
Retracing your route you return to the vehicles. You have the option to ride the demanding 3km tarmac road ascent to the barbeque area – a climb that follows part of the Tour of Spain route. However, the vehicles are available for anyone not fancying this. For lunch you will stop in a Pyrenean meadow and there is time to enjoy a picnic, which you will have had time to buy before you set off.
After lunch you mount your bikes once more for the last part of the day’s cycling as you head for the top of the valley. From here you cross a rope-suspended bridge and take an off-road descent followed by an on-road exhilarating switch-back descent to Encamp – a total descent of over 800m. For anyone not wishing to cycle the routes they can be done on foot and there is a possibility of taking the longest gondola (ski lift) ride in Europe. At the end of the day you return by vehicle to Soldeu.
Free day to relax or choose from optional activities including horse riding, canyoning, hiking or swimming in the Caldea.
Today has been left free for you to choose from the many activities that are on offer in Andorra. You may decide to go horse riding, or visit the thermal baths of La Caldea. Take to the trees for tree-top zip-lining or go canyoning. If you have a head for heights you can try your hand at Via Ferrata climbing. There are of course plenty more opportunities for walking and mountain biking or you could simply choose to relax enjoy the sunshine or go duty free shopping.
4WD excursion along old smugglers’ route into Spain; whitewater rafting near Sort
There has been a long tradition of trade in Andorra due to its unique location between France and Spain. However the most profits have always been available to those willing to smuggle contraband goods. The mountainous nature of Andorra and the border meant that the smugglers had numerous routes they could take. The Spanish Civil War gave the smugglers the chance to make large profits as French goods were taken into Spain where they were not readily available. As the war drew to a close and the market seemed to be drying up, the Second World War started and the trade reversed as Spanish goods were now needed in France. Heading off road in your 4WD vehicle gives you the chance to get away from the developed valleys and see some of the little visited and interesting places in and around Andorra. You drive out of Andorra to the Port de Cabus on the Spanish border; where the tarmac ends so does Andorra. En route there are some spectacular views along valleys to distant peaks, the odd shallow stream to go through and the chance to stop in a typical mountain hamlet. The end of the smuggler’s route finds you at the put-in point for your exhilarating white water rafting (minimum age 8 years to participate and 8-12 year olds will only be able to raft on grade I & II). Here you kit up with paddles, helmets, buoyancy aids, wetsuits and of course join your rafts and guides.
Morning zip-wiring; afternoon cycling
Setting off in the vehicles and with the bikes, you head off to the Ordino Valley, one of the most picturesque in Andorra. Starting at the top end of the valley at 2000m you get fitted with a bike and helmet and then follow with a guide the old iron route of Andorra. Iron was Andorra’s first industry which brought the first real settlements to the area. Easy going off road tracks take you along the valley past the old iron mines, mills, and forges finishing in the village of Ordino. The tracks are mostly wide 4×4 dirt surfaces, no cars take these routes, and though the ground might be a bit rough in places, no technical mountain biking skills are needed, just a good knowledge of normal bike riding. After a rest and refreshment in the village you are back in the vehicles and up to the col de beixalls at 1800m where you are back on the bikes for a thrilling 8km off road descent into Encamp. Throughout the day there will be full vehicle support so that if people prefer not to bike it is possible to walk and/or ride in the 4×4.
Incles Valley hike up to the Cabana Sorda Lake and on to 2600m summit
A short drive takes you into the Incles Valley, where you start today’s walk, beginning along the forested mountain slopes. This part of the walk is along a single track through the woods where there are many examples of pine forest plants, lots of beautiful flowers, rhododendrons in June, wild fruit midsummer and wild mushrooms in September. Arriving on a plateau just above the tree line at 2000m, the gradient lessens as you reach the beautiful Querol and Salamander Lakes. It is common to see groups of thickset mountain horses grazing on these high slopes. The horses are allowed to roam free and normally have large bells strapped around their necks to allow the owners to find them. Contouring along the valley you come to the Cabana Sorda Lake sitting below an impressive semi-circular amphitheatre of rock – an ideal spot to stop for lunch. From the lake, eager walkers can continue the hike up to the peak at around 2600m giving you an amazing bird’s eye view of the valley. For the people staying at the lake there is the chance to have a swim, a refreshing dip in a waterfall or watch the fishermen – there are plenty of mountain trout. After lunch you’ll descend off the grassy higher slopes through thick woodland to the top of the valley. Where you can either take transport back or, for those with more energy, you can continue back on foot.
Transfer to Toulouse
The group will be transferred to Toulouse Airport by minibus where those on the group flights will catch their flight back to your destination. The tour ends at Toulouse Airport for those not on the group flights.