One of the smallest countries in Europe, the Principality of Andorra, is situated in the heart of the Pyrenean Mountains (at around 150km south of Toulouse or 90km south of Foix). Its capital, Andorra la Vella, holds the record for the highest altitude capital city in Europe.
Small it might be, but Andorra has a rich history. It starts according to the legend in year 805 when the country is founded by Charlemagne in recognition of aid given by the inhabitants of the region in his fight against the Saracens. The fact is still celebrated by the Andorran national anthem that starts with “The great Charlemagne, my Father, from the Saracens liberated me…”
Andorra was in the 9th and the 10th centuries the fief of the Counts of Urgell. In 988 the Count swapped this land for other Catalonian territories with the Bishop of Urgell who thus became the ruler of Andorra.
In the centuries that followed the Counts of Urgell however tried to re-annex Andorra to their possesions and in order to defend themselves the bishops were forced to ally themselves with the House of Caboet, a powerful family from the central Pyrenees region. The Caboet family that later through subsequent marriages became linked with the Counts of Foix tried in time to curb the influence of its former allies, the Bishops, in Andorra and consequently brought about a period of power struggle and unrest in the region.
This turmoil ended in 1278 when the bishop of Urgell, Pére d’Urg and the Count of Foix, Roger-Bernard III, signed a pact called “Pareatge” that sealed their co-sovereignty over Andorra and establishing the Principality as we know it today. In the 16th century the last Count of Foix, Henri of Navarre after becoming King Henri IV of France continued to keep his shared rule over Andorra, linking thus the Principality to the French crown.
Nowadays Andorra is co-governed by the French President (that becomes co-prince!!) and the Bishop of Urgell.
Andorra occupies an area of 468 sq km (around 180sq miles), has a population of 85,012 (July 2012) inhabitants who speak Catalan as the official language, but also Frech and Spanish (almost all the people at customer service in shops, hotels, restaurants etc. speak also English!).
About 9 million tourists visit Andorra each year attracted mostly by the mountains’ hiking trails in the summer, the numerous ski resorts in the winter, and all year round by the many shopping opportunities (besides the luxury item stores the country is famous in the region for lower gas, tobacco and alcohol prices).
Andorra is not a memeber of the European Union but it is treated as such in the country’s commercial transactions. It also uses EURO as its currency. The country has no airports, no railroads (but a very good network of roads), no army and no… income tax!
Hi, I am Carla. I am living and working in the beautiful city of Toulouse, France.
I like history, travel and... the southwest of France and try to share through this blog information about events that might be of interest to the travelers to this part of the world!