The Principality of Andorra is nestled between France and Spain in the eastern Pyrenees. This cozy microstate is famous for its quiet mountain scenery and high standard of living, and has the second highest life expectancy in the world.
Andorra is the last surviving independent member of the Marca Hispanica, a line of buffer states created by Charlemagne to protect France from Moorish invasions. In 1278 the country’s unique political system was established, with rulership divided between the Spanish Bishop of Urgell and the French head of state. Andorra’s borders have not changed since that time. Owing to its isolated location (even today, there are only two main roads into the country), it has remained largely free from the political and military events that involved the rest of Europe; except for its role as a major smuggling route between France and Spain during World War II, and a brief, somewhat comical, “coup d’état” in 1934, Andorra’s history has been characterized almost exclusively by peace and tranquility. Its citizens instituted a parliamentary democracy in 1993, reducing the co-princes to a symbolic role and allowing the country entry into the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
Primarily a nation of shepherds prior to the 20th century, Andorra has since crafted a thriving tourism industry that accounts for about 80% of the country’s GDP. Roughly 9 million tourists visit Andorra per year — 125 times the total population! — primarily for the country’s excellent skiing and hiking. Numerous large ski resorts exist, as well as qualified, professional ski schools, and during the summer months many trails open up, offering spectacular views and good exercise. Andorra has long been known as a tax haven, and banking and retail sales have become important industries as well; many tourists arrive just to get good deals on items like perfume and furniture. The country has taken significant steps to decrease its isolation, which has tremendously benefitted the tourism industry. Internet access is common, and transportation is widely available from nearby cities in France and Spain.
Expatriates outnumber native Andorrans in their own country, at over 65% of the population. Most of these come from neighboring European countries, especially Spain, Portugal, and France. Andorra has become an especially attractive destination for retirees, owing to the lack of income tax and tranquil surroundings. Work is mostly available in the tourism and banking industries…although, for a less conventional approach, one could always buy a few sheep and settle down in a quiet farming village.
Catalan is the official language of Andorra, although French and (Castilian) Spanish are both widely spoken throughout the country. There are a large number of English and Portuguese speakers as well, especially in the tourism industry, and it shouldn’t be much of a problem navigating a short stay using one of these languages.
Andorra Embassy Information
Note: Travelers to Andorra must pass through Spain or France, and will need to make appropriate arrangements for entering those countries. Please see the Relocation Resources links of the corresponding articles for more information.
Andorra at Wikitravel
Culture of Andorra at EveryCulture.com
Job Listings at Andorramania.com (Catalan, French, and Spanish)