If the first goal of traveling is to see the world and the first goal of a vacation is to relax, then cycling is the quickest route to accomplishing both. As Dr. K.K. Doty wrote: “Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”
We can get to more of the world than ever before and, likewise, our busy lives (compared to past generations) mean we build a greater balance of stress that needs unwinding. A small dose of planning will ensure that a cycling vacation to Andorra makes everything right again.
Hitting the road (on two wheels) and venturing into the mountains for the first time (and then every subsequent) is a pleasant shock to the system and a great way to reset the mind. Road cycling in Andorra is one of Europe’s best introductions to the mountains. Here is a guide to the ins and outs of planning an Andorra cycling vacation.
The Basics and Advantages of Road Cycling in Andorra
Here are some statistics that give a snapshot of just how well-suited Andorra is to a cycling trip with plenty of challenging climbs and thrilling descents:
- Bikemap.net lists 90,160 km of bikeways over 781 Andorran cycling routes.
- There are 21 mountain passes in Andorra.
- Within its mere 470 square-kilometres, Andorra packs in between 65 and 74 peaks (depending on which source you trust) that come in at more than 2,000 metres.
More subjectively, Andorra’s roads earn high marks for their smooth asphalt and the cycling routes are well marked with informative signs. I’ve even read high praise for how much Andorra’s motorists respect cyclists and pass at a safe distance. Safety and comfort are two factors that can really make a cycling trip more enjoyable.
Just like hiking and mountain biking in Andorra, cycling in Andorra is an undiscovered gem. Compared to other parts of Europe – even if the weather is as pleasant and the cycling routes are as challenging – Andorra is much less crowded with tourists looking to take advantage of scarce cycling resources.
It’s remarkable how densely packed cycling routes are in Andorra. Doubly so, since Andorra’s manageable size means that this is one of the easiest places in Europe to cycle through three countries in one day.
Best Climbs for Road Cycling in Andorra
Andorra cycling sells itself since you’re almost always within close range of a stunning mountain vista. That said if you want to make sure you can cross off the most challenging routes some planning is in order. Here are some of the best climbs in Andorra:
- Going up Coll de la Rabassa has a (slightly) easier finish packed with stunning views as a reward for conquering the grueling start.
- Even at just 6.8 km climbing Collada de Beixalis from Encamp is firmly in the expert category with some slopes getting up to 20% incline. For a similar challenge, you can also approach it from Anyos.
- Expert climbers will want to tackle Collada de la Gallina. This challenging section played an important role in the 2012 Vuelta a España in the direction that starts from Aixovall and Allesandro Ballan won a Vuelta stage here in 2008 (on his way to holding the world champion title) for the route that passes through Fontaneda.
- It’s easier to get up Alto de la Comella from Escaldes but you can also set out from the capital, Andora La Valla.
- If you want to know what it’s like to finish La Purito Sportive (more on that in a few paragraphs) then give its last leg, Els Cortals d’Encamp, a test spin.
Get a Glimpse of World Class Cycling in Andorra
The Tour de France, the world’s most famous multi-stage cycling race has visited Andorra five times. In 2016, the last time the world’s most famous cycling race came to Andorra, it was to finish stage 9, enjoy one of that year’s two rest days, and then start stage 10. Between the grueling mountain passes and challenging climbing finish this was a highlight of the year’s Tour.
Spain’s national, multi-stage cycling race, the Vuelta a España, often plans some of its most exciting stages for the mountainous principality. As of November 2017, media speculation in Andorra was that the 2018 edition would head there for its climatic 19th and 20th stages.
For those highly competitive cyclists who aren’t quite at the point of joining a well-funded team for the Tour or the Vuelta, there is always La Purito Sportive. Based in Grandvalira and with three routes ranging from a 25-km introduction up to a 145-km-6-mountain-passes long ride this is an excellent way to test your cycling mettle and it’s open to anyone who registers. All routes start in Sant Julià de Lòria and finish in Cortals d’Encamp.
Andorra is also a very popular basecamp for world-class cyclists. In 2016, letour.fr reported that 11 of the participants in that year’s race called Andorra home.
Practical Tips for a Road Cycling Excursion in Andorra
Some of us can just get on our bike and hit the road for our day of mountain climbing. For everyone else who considers the practicalities here are more details on road cycling in Andorra.
Professional cyclists who want to compete in Andorra need to get a license from the government but there are no licensing requirements for everyone else. As mentioned earlier, the cycling routes are well marked in Andorra and drivers tend to give cyclists a wide berth, but as usual it’s always a good idea to choose routes other than the main highways, if possible.
Andorra’s mountains are what make it an attractive cycling destination but they can also have an unexpected effect on the climate. Even in spring and summer, the temperature will be cooler at the higher elevations. It also pays to prepare for unexpected precipitation.
Speaking of mountainous elevations, Andorra is, on average, nearly 2,000 metres above sea level. So, even if you’re not planning to conquer the most challenging mountain passes you should consider some special preparation. Sleeping in an altitude tent is probably overkill but you’ll have a better time cycling in Andorra if you train beforehand.
More Resources for Planning for Road Cycling Trip to Andorra
For those who want to do their own research into planning a cycling vacation in Andorra here are some useful resources.
- Visit Andorra has put together a helpful guide to the cycling routes of Andorra and associated services.
- Many of Andorra’s bordas – centuries-old stone barns that have been converted into restaurants offering the dishes that make up the traditional cuisine of the Pyrenees – are within cycling distance. What could be more pleasant than a hearty lunch as the end goal for a morning spent cycling through breathtaking scenery?
- Pick and choose which climbs you want to conquer using Cycle Fiesta’s guide to Andorra.
- Read more about why the pros pick Andorra as a training base and home.
- If you’re considering a less traditional mode of getting around Andorra by bike, check out this travelogue on seeing Andorra from a recumbent.
- And for the visual learners, Darren Alff of Bicycling Touring Pro made a 45-minute documentary about cycling across Andorra.
Sant Moritz as a Basecamp for Road Cycling in Andorra
With our location in Arinsal, Apartaments Sant Moritz is an ideal base for a vacation spent exploring the mountainous Andorra cycling routes. In particular, we are:
- Close to many of the best cycling climbs in Andorra;
- Registered as a Bikefriendly lodging, with a bicycle wash point, complete workshop space and secure storage;
- Equipped with 17 tourist-apartment style accommodations that are well-suited to those traveling with cycling gear;
- Positioned near shops that can help you find the expertise and gear needed to make last-minute adjustments.
Our online booking tool is safe, fast and secure. Check “find accommodation” off your list and get down to planning your Andorra cycling route.