While Andorra is primarily known as a winter holiday destination, for those who enjoy hiking and cycling, the warmer weather opens up a wealth of opportunities to explore the Pyrenees without their blanket of snow.
Around the delightful town of Santa Coloma, which is just a short distance from the capital, Andorra La Vella, summer reveals some wonderful hiking trails, suitable for all abilities. If you’re planning a short summer break to Andorra to give your hiking boots a workout in the Pyrenees, Santa Coloma is a great place to use as a base.
The Enclar Trail
The Enclar Trail is a long, straight trail that begins in Santa Coloma and gives you the opportunity to encounter plenty of the diverse flora and fauna of the region. The trail is of medium difficulty, but if you do plan to complete the entire circuit, be aware that you’ll be ascending (and descending on the return journey) quite steadily. The trail will take about two and a half hours there and back, depending on how many stops you make along the way to admire the scenery, of course.
The first point of interest is the wonderful 12th-century castle, Sant Vicenc d’Enclar, which presides over the village from its precipitous perch on the Roc d’Enclar. You’ll get a lovely view down the valley, and while this point is where many tourists stop, for the avid hiker, it’s where the fun just begins.
As you gradually ascend to the higher altitudes, you’ll encounter the abundant avian life, including impressive birds of prey like sparrow hawks, black kites and vultures – which are particularly prevalent in the migratory season. You’ll reach the beautiful Enclar Meadow, at the top of the pass, in around 40 minutes. This picturesque site is dotted with cherry trees and poplars and you might catch a glimpse of roe deer or even a wild boar. After a short rest, it’s downhill all the way back.
Cami de Santa Coloma a La Margineda
This is a somewhat easier and shorter trail, which can be navigated by those of moderate fitness. The short route from Santa Coloma to Margineda begins in the centre of the village, from the Placa de Poble. You can’t miss the square, as it is right in front of the town’s most famous landmark, the Romanesque Church of Santa Coloma, which is the oldest in Andorra.
The church is not the only architecture of interest, however, and once you rise above the village, and the cobbled path makes way for gravel, you’ll arrive at a double-storey stone building designed by architect Cesar Martinell, nicknamed ‘The Russian’s Tower’. The Modernist-style building was named after a well-known Russian refugee who once lived there and is believed to be the first architect-designed construction in Andorra.
Once you pass the Russian’s Tower (it’s a private residence so don’t try to go in!) you’ll turn off on a path signposted to Axias, which will then take you all the way to La Margineda. From beginning to end, you’ll only be ascending around 100 metres in altitude all up, so this makes for a very relaxing hike with lots of wonderful views along the way – and you’ll barely break a sweat.
The Best Things in Life…
Apart from getting out in the great outdoors, one of the best things about hiking is that it’s (usually) absolutely free. But if, once you’ve navigated these two relatively easy trails out of Santa Coloma, you want to embark on something a little more challenging and high-altitude, it’s highly recommended that you enlist the services of a trained local mountain guide. Not only do they know the local trails, they’re also fully-trained in navigating the famous Via Ferrata, the ‘iron road’ system of iron rungs, pegs and carved steps that appear in some demanding sections of alpine routes.
The Tourist Office at Plaça de la Rotonda, Andorra La Vella, has a current listing of all the professional guides for the area.
How to Get to Santa Coloma
Although Andorra has no airport of its own, you have a choice of several airports in France or Spain. Reus is the most popular, with a number of budget airlines flying routes from the UK regularly.
From the airport, you can get to Santa Coloma by bus, but you’ll need to make several changes and wait for a final local connection in Andorra Vella. For a far more relaxed option, Shuttle Direct’s convenient Reus airport transfers will get you from the airport straight to the door of your accommodation in Santa Coloma, so you can just sit back and enjoy the wonderful scenery without worrying about luggage and timetables.
If you’re planning on picking up a hire car to explore the rest of Andorra while you’re there, from Reus Airport you’ll need to take the C14 motorway north, then transfer to the N145 to take you into Andorra. Follow the signs southwest to the capital, Andorra la Vella, and Santa Coloma is just a few kilometres on.
Where to Stay:
Apartments Maragall – If you’re looking for comfortable, homely accommodation without spending the entire holiday budget, the Apartments Maragall are your answer. Decorated in fresh, bright colours and spacious enough for multiple guests, there’s room to relax in the lounge area and some apartments feature bunk beds. Restaurants are just two minutes away, but you can also dine in with your own well-equipped kitchenette.
Hotel Sol-Park – A calm, contemporary ambience welcomes you at the Hotel Sol-Park, just a few kilometres from the centre of Santa Coloma. With an elegant cream décor and classic furnishings, you’ll find instant relaxation in the spacious rooms and private balconies, framed by the panoramic views of the mountains. When you come in from a hike, you can take advantage of the onsite spa’s hydro massage and Turkish baths, or indulge in a massage or aromatherapy treatment.
Hotel Andorra Center – Come home from an invigorating hike to the welcoming embrace of the Hotel Andorra Center. The contemporary décor features bright colours, timber floors, and large picture windows, setting off the spectacular vista of the surrounding mountains. The rooftop sun terrace is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing rest day. You can ease tired muscles in the indoor pool, sauna and hot tub, then enjoy an evening out in the stylish restaurant and bar.