Ensconced between Spain and France in the eastern portion of the Pyrenees mountains, Andorra is a tiny nation rich in history and culture that has drawn many foreigners to its picturesque valleys in search of easy, healthy living, as well as a preferable tax rate.
With the second highest life expectancy in the world according to recent statistics released by the US Census Bureau, Andorra’s native population are vastly outnumbered in their own country, with roughly 65% of inhabitants being of foreign extraction—primarily French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Though Catalan is the official language of the country, it is common to hear the languages of the three aforementioned countries, as well as English, spoken.
Given its currently thriving tourist industry, Andorra has done a complete 180 in the last one hundred years, going from an isolated backwater to an incredibly popular destination full of opportunities. Mountain biking and skiing are the two primary tourist activities in the country, though, given the very low sales tax, lots of people stop in just to get good deals on items that would be much more costly at home, like perfumes and other luxury items.
Andorra’s history dates back to the 13th century when Charlemagne set up the principality as one of the buffer zones to defend France from the possibility of invasion from the moors that were occupying Spain at the time. Its borders have remained the same ever since, and the country has been spared a lot of the turmoil that most of the rest of Europe went through over the many subsequent centuries. The result is a much more laid back culture than exists in either of its two neighbors, or just about any other part of Europe for that matter.
The economy is very strong, and is dominated by the tourism industry, which represents about 80% of the nation’s GDP. The banking sector is also quite strong, given the lax tax atmosphere imposed by the national government. The currency is the Euro, which lends a strong degree of fortitude to financial activity in the country.
A lot of retirees move to Andorra because of the lack of an income tax and the healthy lifestyle that prevails: the culinary tradition is fairly Mediterranean, but meat consumption—especially lamb—is more prevalent than elsewhere. This and the beautiful surroundings, and the peaceful demeanor of the locals, make for a serene stay, whether it’s for a few weeks, months, or the rest of your days.