What Should I Know About Andorra?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2017
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Andorra is a small country found in the middle of the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. Although just over twice as large as Washington DC, the country has a thriving economy and is a popular destination for people from around the world — for both tourists and new residents.

The official language of Andorra is Catalan, a Romance language with ancient roots, although both Spanish and French are widely spoken unofficially. The nation is landlocked, with a fairly temperate climate year round. There are just over seventy-thousand residents, and the country has the distinction of having the highest life expectancy of any nation on earth, at 83.5 years.

This country began more than 1200 years ago, as one of the small states the Emperor Charlemagne created to protect France from a perceived threat from Spain — which at that time was ruled by the Islamic Moors. It remained in a state of relative flux until the 1200s, when it became semi-autonomous and adopted a form of government wherein it was ruled over by both the king of France and the king of Spain. The borders drawn up at this time remain to this day, making it one of the most stable-bordered nations in Europe.

Andorra remained under this form of co-principality until 1993, when, after more than 700 years, a constitution was finally adopted. Although both the head of state of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgel remain co-princes in the new parliamentary system, the division of power is now much more clear, with an elected prime minister serving as the head of government.

The country remained neutral through much of its history, including during World War II. During the war, Andorra served as a major transport route for smuggling goods from the resistance government in France to Spain. It did not remain neutral during World War I, and was inadvertently left out of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles — resulting in it technically remaining at war with Germany until the mistake was finally corrected in 1958.

Andorra is primarily a tourist destination, with the tourist industry accounting for more than 75% of the $2 billion US Dollar (USD) economy. Tourists enjoy the country's beautiful scenery, its tax-free status, and the many posh hotels and bed and breakfasts. Traveling there is fairly easy, with regular land transit from many points in both France and Spain, and commercial air travel. The cost of travel in the country is comparable to that of most of Western Europe.


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