All I wanted was to see some snow. I had previously missed out by means of convenience, and I thought I shouldn’t missed out on the chance when I was in Europe for Christmas 2020. It was a period of partial lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most holiday resorts and restaurants were closed as per regulations. I was scrutinizing the map for somewhere I could go for a little more freedom — and then I spotted Andorra.
The sixth-smallest state in Europe and one of the twenty smallest countries in the world, Andorra is only reachable by land. It is wedged between France and Spain, consisting of the Pyrenees mountain range. As such, it is a ski destination for the most part, and a tax-free haven as it is not part of the European Union.
There was no lockdown when I arrived, and the only requirement was to wear a mask indoors. Despite this, the lockdowns in the neighbouring countries prevented their residents from visiting. As such, I got a very quiet trip with just myself and the serenity of my first snow.
Two days prior to the trip, I made my base in Toulouse, France, where I found a couchsurfer to take me in for a couple of nights. Toulouse is the most accessible city in the country to begin the journey to Andorra by bus. Gare Matabiau, the main bus station, is right next to the Toulouse train station, and from there, I took Andbus, the ‘official’ bus into Andorra from either France or Spain.
The bus stops at various spots in Andorra, and you may even customize the address you like to go. The main station is in the capital Andorra la Vella, but I was heading just a little further to La Massana, where my accommodation was. It was so easy that I had no worries traveling in. The view as we weaved from the Pyrenees was breath-taking too — imagine my excitement when I saw snow for the first time!
The reason I chose to make base at La Massana is mostly for the cheaper accommodation. I stayed at Secret Spot Hostel, a small unassuming place right in the centre of the town. Due to the situation at the time of travel, I ended up being the only solo traveller besides a couple staying here, so I took up an entire 6-person mixed dorm for myself. It’s on the highest floor, so I got to look through the skylight while relaxing in a big tub all by myself. The kitchen and lounge were great for small meals too.
On the other side of the street was Restaurant La Borda Xica (currently stated as closed on Google), a family restaurant that serves Andorran cuisines. I went in with the expectation of having some rabbit dish, but the hospitality of the owner convinced me to try his specialty of pork cheek and salad. Dining in wasn’t allowed in their neighbouring countries due to the pandemic, but here, I was able to savour the dishes in their homely setting. I have nothing to complain about from their service to the food. Highly recommended!
Frankly, I didn’t do much while in Andorra. I wasn’t in the right headspace to enjoy myself, so I chose to explore the towns on foot for most of the only day I had in town. I hopped onto the public bus and went to Canillo, intending to hike up to Roc del Quer for a view but was challenged by the slippery slopes thanks to the melting snow from the unfortunately warm day. Then I explored Andorra la Vella for lunch before heading back to La Massana.
Even after just two nights before returning to Toulouse by Blablacar, I still wouldn’t give Andorra a pass. The many hikes look amazing, and if given the chance, I would go to Caldea thermal spring for a relaxing spa. So until then, the little bit of first snow would remain a bittersweet memory for myself.
*All photos featured in this story are taken by the author.