High in the mountains of the Pyrenees between Spain and France lies the principality of Andorra which is famous for its duty free shopping and its ski resorts. The ski resorts are well suited to family holidays with plenty opportunities to learn the sport on gentle slopes. The southerly location ensures plenty glorious blue sky days during the ski season which typically runs from mid-December until April. The après-ski scene is lively in many resorts and when compared with the well known resorts of the Alps there’s no doubt that Andorra offers excellent value for money.
Historically, ski tourism developed in this region as a number of small, independent resorts which included Soldeu, Pas de la Casa, Pal, Arinsal and Arcalis. Nowadays, however, these separate zones have united to form two major ski areas called Grandvalira and Vallnord. Soldeu-Andorra is part of the Grandvalira zone which represents the amalgamation of six valleys creating a skiable area of more than 200km which can all be accessed with a single ski pass. The first-class network of ski lifts allows visitors to easily get to slopes which would previously have been inaccessible unless you stayed in a particular resort.
The first ski resort to appear in this region was Pas de la Casa which lies right on the Spain-France border. The resort is well-known for its excellent skiing, lively nightlife and availability of affordable accommodation. Meanwhile just 14km north-west by road is the more up-market resort of Soldeu-Andorra which is home to some classy hotels and more refined après-ski whilst offering first-class skiing facilities. These two popular ski destinations make up the Grandvalira ski area.
Not so many years ago Andorra had something of a reputation as a winter version of Magaluf, but not any more. The region has ‘grown up’ as a ski destination whilst still providing a fairly raucous pub/club scene for those young enough to be able to get up in the morning after a night on the tiles. Pas de la Casa remains the first choice for 18-30 crowd whilst Soldeu-Andorra is more appropriate for maturer visitors and families whilst still offering a very affordable ski holiday.
Getting to Soldeu
In comparison with resorts in the Alps, Soldeu-Andorra offers excellent value when it comes to accommodation, nightlife and ski services (equipment hire, classes, lift passes). But how do you get there on a budget? The simple answer is to book a flight to Reus in Spain then travel the 200km by road to your hotel
Reus Airport lies 1.5 hours along the coast to the south of Barcelona. Holidaymakers arrive there in their droves during the summer months heading for Salou and other popular resorts of the Costa Dorada. Unfortunately, the majority of these incoming flights are seasonal leaving limited Ryanair services in winter from London Stansted and Eindhoven.
The journey to Soldeu and neighbouring ski resorts of Andorra takes approximately 3 hours travelling directly north on the C-14 road. A longer option that takes a similar amount of time is to take the AP-7 motorway before heading into the mountains on the C-16. You can rent a car for the journey at Reus Airport but should be aware of unpredictable conditions on the mountain roads. A safer option is to pre-book a specialist ski transfer with operators such as Shuttledirect who provide transport from Reus to Soldeu-Andorra. Other airports worth considering are Barcelona, Girona, Toulouse and Perpignan. Shuttledirect can provide transfers from all of these destinations.
Where to Stay in Soldeu-Andorra
5-Star Sport Hotel Hermitage & Spa (Crta General s/n): This 5-star hotel can hold its own against luxury ski hotels all over the world. Everything about its rooms and public areas is of the highest quality whilst its restaurants are excellent. Exquisite mountain views together with the most luxurious spa you could ever imagine make this property the number one choice for visitors to Soldeu.
4-Star Sport Hotel Village (Ctra. General s/n): Just across the road is the Hermitage’s sister hotel which is an excellent choice for skiers thanks to its location right next to the Grandvalira ski-lift and its proximity to ski hire shops, a ski school and equipment storage facilities. It has a very good restaurant and popular bar with mountain views. Hotel guests are allowed to use the nearby wellness centre for an extra charge. This is a great place to relax where you’ll have access to spas, saunas and jacuzzis whilst surrounded by mountains.
4-Star Sport Hotel (Ctra. General s/n): This third option from the same group is more of a mountain-lodge style hotel which has a beautiful terrace with great views of the surrounding mountains. It offer excellent amenities throughout including an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and a highly regarded restaurant together with a couple of lively bars.
2-Star Hotel Bruxelles (Ctra. General 2): As a budget hotel option the Bruxelles Hotel is worth considering. It’s well enough located for getting to the gondola within a few minutes, its rooms are clean though a little small and its restaurant and staff come highly recommended. It certainly offers good value for money.
If you’d prefer self-catering accommodation then you’d be well advised to take a look at what’s on offer at the Airbnb.com website. This company has become a powerhouse in the online holiday rental market, offering a range of lodging options to visitors. In Soldeu-Andorra they allow you to rent either an entire apartment for yourself or to simply rent a private room in someone’s home. They currently have more than 300 rental properties to choose from.