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Trip code : FAAFP
Trip length : 8
Squeezed between Spain and France, the mountainous principality of Andorra is a perfect place for an action-packed summer activity week. On this family activity holiday you’ll experience the best of the region with walking to the beautiful Siscaro Lakes and in the stunning Incles Valley. There’s plenty of chance for mountain biking, including going through the Cortals Valley and downhill into Spain where you’ll get the adrenalin pumping as you shoot the rapids; white water rafting down world-class rivers near Sort. While on this family holiday there’s also the chance to get off the beaten track with a 4WD excursion along old smugglers’ routes. The mountain scenery is fantastic, the climate perfect and the experiences thrilling!
Meet at the meeting point and transfer to your first night’s accommodation (approx. 3-4 hours), journeying south by chartered bus to Soldeu in Andorra. Along the way, you can marvel at the impressive mountain scenery that surrounds you as you wind your way up over the border into Andorra. Situated on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, squashed between France and Spain, the principality of Andorra measures a mere 25km by 30km, and has an average elevation of 1,996 metres. Andorra’s independence can be traced back to Charlemagne, who captured the region from the Muslims in 803 AD. It was only in 1993 that the Andorran people voted to establish the country as an independent and democratic state. Although small, Andorra is blessed with some of the finest scenery in the Pyrenees and is a great place for an active week in the mountains.
Hotel Roc San Miguel (AA) - 7 nights (B)
This morning you will take your first excursion out into the impressive mountains of this tiny country. The drive to Port Envalira takes approximately 30 minutes and at 2,408 metres is boasted as being the highest road pass in Europe, helping to connect El Pas de la Casa to the rest of the country. Starting at 2,500m you have a short 100m climb to the summit of Pic Maia. At this height there are spectacular views across the Andorran mountains.
From here the rest of the day is a ridge walk. Being mostly flat or downhill, this is a great introduction to the Pyrenees, and a chance to stretch your legs and acclimatize to the altitude. The scenery is stunning and the walk will hopefully give you the chance to see some of Andorra’s flora and fauna. It is always worth keeping an eye out for the griffon vultures which are often seen circling high overhead. On the way you will pass the Siscaro Lakes which on hotter days, are a pleasant place to have a swim. From here the descent is more rapid and the path brings you out right opposite the hotel. You will arrive back at the hotel between 3pm and 4pm giving you a chance to either relax in the sun, take the bikes out for a ride, or visit one of the neighbouring hotel’s spa centres. (BD)
Today’s full day of activities take place in the stunningly beautiful Cortals Valley, about a 30 minute drive away. Half-way up the valley you jump on the bikes for a ride along a flat track to the Engolasters Lake giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Around the lake there are plenty of fun tracks to be taken and you normally have the choice between an easy flat track and a more exciting path through the woods. For those slightly less energetic there is also a lakeside bar. Retracing your route you return to the vehicles. You have the option to ride the demanding 3km tarmac road ascent to the barbeque area – a climb that follows part of the Tour of Spain route. However, the vehicles are available for anyone not fancying this. For lunch you will stop in a Pyrenean meadow and there is time to enjoy a picnic, which you will have had time to buy before you set off.
After lunch you mount your bikes once more for the last part of the day’s cycling as you head for the top of the valley. From here you cross a rope-suspended bridge and take an off-road descent followed by an on-road exhilarating switch-back descent to Encamp – a total descent of over 800m. For anyone not wishing to cycle the routes they can be done on foot and there is a possibility of taking the longest gondola (ski lift) ride in Europe. At the end of the day you return by vehicle to Soldeu. (BD)
Today has been left free for you to choose from the many activities that are on offer in Andorra. You may decide to go horse riding, or visit the thermal baths of La Caldea. Take to the trees for tree-top zip-lining or go canyoning. If you have a head for heights you can try your hand at Via Ferrata climbing. There are of course plenty more opportunities for walking and mountain biking or you could simply choose to relax enjoy the sunshine or go duty free shopping. (BD)
There has been a long tradition of trade in Andorra due to its unique location between France and Spain. However the most profits have always been available to those willing to smuggle contraband goods. The mountainous nature of Andorra and the border meant that the smugglers had numerous routes they could take. The Spanish Civil War gave the smugglers the chance to make large profits as French goods were taken into Spain where they were not readily available.
As the war drew to a close and the market seemed to be drying up, the Second World War started and the trade reversed as Spanish goods were now needed in France. Heading off road in your 4WD vehicle gives you the chance to get away from the developed valleys and see some of the little visited and interesting places in and around Andorra. You drive out of Andorra to the Port de Cabus on the Spanish border; where the tarmac ends so does Andorra. En route there are some spectacular views along valleys to distant peaks, the odd shallow stream to go through and the chance to stop in a typical mountain hamlet. The end of the smuggler’s route finds you at the put-in point for your exhilarating white water rafting (minimum age 8 years to participate and 8-12 year olds will only be able to raft on grade I & II). Here you kit up with paddles, helmets, buoyancy aids, wetsuits and of course join your rafts and guides. (BD)
Setting off in the vehicles and with the bikes, you head off to the Ordino Valley, one of the most picturesque in Andorra. Starting at the top end of the valley at 2000m you get fitted with a bike and helmet and then follow with a guide the old iron route of Andorra. Iron was Andorra's first industry which brought the first real settlements to the area. Easy going off road tracks take you along the valley past the old iron mines, mills, and forges finishing in the village of Ordino.
The tracks are mostly wide 4x4 dirt surfaces, no cars take these routes, and though the ground might be a bit rough in places, no technical mountain biking skills are needed, just a good knowledge of normal bike riding. After a rest and refreshment in the village you are back in the vehicles and up to the col de beixalls at 1800m where you are back on the bikes for a thrilling 8km off road descent into Encamp. Throughout the day there will be full vehicle support so that if people prefer not to bike it is possible to walk and/or ride in the 4x4. From Encamp it is just a short 15 min drive back to the hotel arriving between 5pm and 6pm. (BD)
A short drive takes you into the Incles Valley, where you start today’s walk, beginning along the forested mountain slopes. This part of the walk is along a single track through the woods where there are many examples of pine forest plants, lots of beautiful flowers, rhododendrons in June, wild fruit midsummer and wild mushrooms in September. Arriving on a plateau just above the tree line at 2000m, the gradient lessens as you reach the beautiful Querol and Salamander Lakes.
It is common to see groups of thickset mountain horses grazing on these high slopes. The horses are allowed to roam free and normally have large bells strapped around their necks to allow the owners to find them. Contouring along the valley you come to the Cabana Sorda Lake sitting below an impressive semi-circular amphitheatre of rock - an ideal spot to stop for lunch. From the lake, eager walkers can continue the hike up to the peak at around 2600m giving you an amazing bird’s eye view of the valley. For the people staying at the lake there is the chance to have a swim, a refreshing dip in a waterfall or watch the fishermen - there are plenty of mountain trout. After lunch you’ll descend off the grassy higher slopes through thick woodland to the top of the valley where you can either take transport back to the hotel or, for those with more energy, you can continue back on foot. (BD)
This morning, you transfer by bus to the airport in Toulouse where the trip ends for Land Only clients. (B)
Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for a fun, informative experience.
Transport - Minibus, mountain bike, raft, 4WD, on foot.
Accommodation - Hotel (7nts).
Squeezed between Spain and France, the mountainous principality of Andorra is a perfect place for an action-packed summer activity week. On this trip you’ll experience the best of the region with walking to the beautiful Siscaro Lakes and in the stunning Incles Valley. There’s plenty of chance for mountain biking, including going through the Cortals Valley and downhill into Spain where you’ll get the adrenalin pumping as you shoot the rapids; white water rafting down world-class rivers near Sort. There’s also the chance to get off the beaten track with a 4WD excursion along old smugglers’ routes. The mountain scenery is fantastic, the climate perfect and the experiences thrilling!
This is an active trip requiring no previous experience, although an ability to cycle for the mountain biking and an ability to swim for the rafting is essential. Days of mountain biking, walking and rafting can be a rigorous test of stamina, but with full vehicle support we believe anyone in good health should be capable of participating. The difficulty of the walks and rides will depend on the ability of the group and is adjusted accordingly. Minimum age: 7 years
Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip. It is not an exhaustive packing list and it is important to remember that due to the mountainous location of this tour, weather can change for the worse quickly. You must bring appropriate clothing and footwear to prepare for these changes. If you need further advice, please call us or consult your nearest specialist outdoor clothing and equipment store.
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc
Most people buy packed lunches – you might find a sealable plastic box useful for storing it in your daypack.
Although not essential, gloves for cycling make it more comfortable – especially if you grip hard.
Language – Most people in Andorra speak Catalan, Spanish and French so it’s a great place to try out your language skills. But don’t worry if you can’t remember your fromage from your queso or your chapeaux from your sombreros as English is also widely spoken.
Approximate costs in the local currency are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.
Holders of UK, IRL and other EU passports do not require a visa. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Information can also be found on www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
None recommended but you should have up to date tetanus and polio immunisations. Please note that EHIC’s (European Health Insurance Certificates) are not valid in Andorra.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information. A specialist travel clinic should also be able to advise regarding any special vaccination requirements for your children.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
For most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group of the same sex, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website. Occasionally we use multiple-share or dormitory accommodation – particularly when stating in remote places.
Rooming arrangements – Family trips
If you’re a family of 2 you’ll be accommodated in a twin room. If you’re a family of three you will usually be accommodated in a triple room. If you’re a family of four you’ll probably be accommodated in two twin rooms and we’ll do our best to ensure they’re as near as possible. We cannot always guarantee a triple room. If a triple room is not available, an adult from your family will automatically be roomed with a fellow adult member of the group of the same sex. If you prefer to have a room of your own we can sometimes offer a single room for the entire trip or on selected nights within a trip. However a single room supplement applies, look on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website or ask our Travel Consultants for details.
A single supplement is available for this trip priced from 75 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It's about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
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