You’ll find some of the most enchanting villages in Andorra hidden amidst mountains. Summer is definitely the best time of year to explore narrow streets, unique squares or the most unusual nooks and crannies. Traditional architecture, as well as customs and traditions from the past, permeates every square centimetre of their streets. Come and explore them – you’ll discover the years of history hidden within their stone walls.
Llorts: ironworking tradition
The village of Llorts will draw you in as soon as you arrive with its stone houses, wrought-iron balconies, trough fountain and Sant Serni de Llorts Church. Declared a site of cultural interest and featuring rural architecture, it is located in the old quarter surrounded by cobbled streets. Its location near the old iron mines provides the perfect excuse to visit the Llorts Mine, the only mine still intact in Andorra. By following a 30-metre-long route into the mine tunnels, you’ll learn about the process of transforming iron – from its extraction to its production at the Rossell Forge, which was one of the most important forges in the 19th century. Llorts is also found along the Iron Route, which follows the Camí Ral trail from La Cortinada for a one-and-a-half-hour hike.
But if you fancy a longer hike, the Camí Ral actually starts in the village of Serrat, where you’ll find the Ordino Bridge, a mediaeval bridge that was moved in 1980. The route continues along the riverbanks towards the south, passing through several parishes such as Ordino, La Massana and Escaldes-Engordany, finishing in Andorra la Vella.
Engolasters: much more than just a lake
Despite the fact that Engolasters is not a village as such, there’s no doubt it’s one of the rural areas you simply can’t miss on your visit to Andorra. On the Engolasters Plain, you’ll find traditional bordes, buildings intended to house livestock and farm tools. Towering above the valley is Sant Miquel Church, which – together with Santa Coloma Church and Sant Joan de Caselles Church – is among the most important Romanesque monuments in Andorra. Its 17-metre bell tower – visually off-balance with its small square nave – features sculpted heads above the mullioned windows on the top floor of the bell tower, one of the few remnants of Romanesque sculpture in the country. Further along the road is one of the most well-known and easily accessible lakes in the principality, Lake Engolasters.
Its surface area of 7 ha is one of the country’s natural resources for the generation of electricity. You can also do the Hydroelectric Trail, a route that shows the history of electricity in Andorra since 1930 through the facilities around the lake. This area is also one of the main access points to the Madriu Valley, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004, among others.
Strolling through Fontaneda
Located in the southern part of the country, Fontaneda is a small village that belongs to the parish of Sant Julià de Lòria. With less than 150 inhabitants, it’s one of the most-visited places by cyclists as it’s en route to Coll de la Gallina, one of the most technically challenging and difficult mountain passes, and it has been a finish town for the Vuelta a España. The village boasts a group of stone houses with slate roofs, which are unusual in that they are found right next to each other, on one side of the road with sweeping views of the valley. In this case, the church is not found right in the centre but instead a few metres away in the highest part of the village, where the hiking trail to reach Coll de la Gallina starts. From there, you’ll be able to take in the spectacular views of the Lauredian valley.
Uniquely built right into the side of the mountain, Sant Miquel de Fontaneda still retains some remnants of paintings by the Master of Anyós, as well as an altar carved from a single piece of stone. To conclude the visit, we recommend stopping by the Mas Berenguer winery, one of Andorra’s newest, which makes wine from the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. If you’re still hungry for more, another must-visit is the Canòlich Shrine, built more than 1600 metres above sea level. It’s one of the country’s three main shrines, together with the Nostra Senyora de Meritxell Basilica and the San Antoni de la Grella Shrine in La Massana.
Sispony: the sweetest quarter in La Massana
As one of the seven quarters in La Massana, Sispony is simply brimming with culture, Romanesque art and religion. As soon as you step into the village, you can see the perfect balance between past and present in its buildings. Right in the heart of it, you’ll find its first gem, the Sant Joan de Sispony Church. But despite the beauty of the neighbourhood, it’s actually the cortals (group of bordes) that will take your breath away! Located in the heart of Sispony, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. It has cobbled streets and stone houses, wooden and wrought-iron railings and windows, and above all, lush vegetation all around. Right here, you can also visit the Casa Rull Museum, one of the few places that give an inside peek into the life of a family of farmers, in a time when farming and livestock farming were the country’s economic base.
If you’re into hiking, Sispony is the gateway to the Enclar mountain range where you can hike through the Collada de Muntaner mountain pass to reach the Enclar and Carroi peaks, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the capital and the surrounding valleys. As the perfect finishing touch to your visit, we recommend indulging your sweet tooth by visiting our unique chocolate micro-producer, Xocland, or sampling the delicious jams by El Pastador. Finally, if you’re a fan of religion and religious art, the parish of La Massana boasts three of the oldest Romanesque churches which you simply can’t miss: the Church of Sant Iscle i Santa Victoria, the Sant Cristòfol d’Anyós Church, and last but not the least, the Sant Antoni de la Grella Church, which was built right into the side of the mountain.
Pal: a town where time stands still
If we are highlighting towns that have charm, Pal is definitely one of them. Located at a height of more than 1500 m and surrounded by nature, it is one of the few towns that has managed to preserve its traditional mountain village features. Walk through the side streets and let yourself be surrounded by the style of the old houses; a testament to ages past. The traditional construction materials, such as stone, wood and slate, alternate in old and modern houses. The church of Sant Climent de Pal, built between the end of the 11th and the start of the 12th centuries, still retains the original elements of its architecture. In fact, Sant Climent de Pal is one of the oldest and most unique churches in the Principality, as it is the only one that has a three-story bell tower with a mullioned window right at the top.
But that’s not all! If you’re a fan of mountain biking, the Pal Bike Park is just a few kilometres from the town. Located in the Pal Arinsal ski area, it has numerous circuits where you can practise different types of mountain biking. It also has an area designed for introducing the youngest riders to the sport. In the height of the summer, you will also be able to enjoy a lot of open-air activities with the family in the Mountain Park. Another essential place to visit, if you are travelling with little ones, is the Bosque dels Menairons, where you can walk a magic trail together, interact with the environment, and awaken the children’s love and understanding of nature. Finally, if you like viewpoints, there are several in Pal, where you can enjoy unique views.
Ransol: a timeless village
Located atop a mountain, Ransol is a unique village of a few inhabitants with a group of old houses that coexist with more modern and contemporary ones. It has a very important cultural heritage: in the old quarter, you’ll find several mediaeval houses with traces of the past which will simply blow you away! The village church, the San Jaume de Ransol Church, is a pre-Romanesque church that’s located on the side of the road and is part of a stage on the well-known Way of St James pilgrimage route. At the entrance to the village, you’ll find Cal Jordi, one of our micro-producers specialising in the production of traditional cold meats. During the tour, you’ll learn how they make their products and enjoy a sampling.
Ransol’s excellent location offers spectacular panoramic views of the entire Canillo Valley. It’s the perfect destination for snow lovers thanks to its proximity to the Grandvalira ski slopes, and it’s also a hiker’s dream with access to La Serrera Peak, one of the summits higher than 2900 metres in Andorra. Some of the most well-known routes set off from the Coma de Ransol such as the Camí dels Estanys de Querol i de les Salamandres trail or the Camí Circular de la Parròquia de Canillo trail, which runs through Ransol for part of its 30 km.
As you can see, our villages have so much to offer. This summer, try something different and discover these wonderful gems scattered all across our country.