We were guests of the Andorra Tourism Board for this fun-filled dog-friendly winter weekend. All opinions remain our own.
Have you heard of it?
It’s the 16th smallest country in the world by landmass and 11 smallest by population. You can drive from one end of the country to the other in a little over an hour. Just 85,000 people call this tiny country tucked in between the high Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain home.
And what lucky people they are.
Andorra is indeed a country. It is the place to go for outdoors lovers. It’s like Switzerland, but the prices won’t make your eyes bulge.
We visited on a whim this summer while we were in the area, and fell instantly in love with the small country and its picturesque villages.
After winning a photo contest hosted by the tourism board, we were invited back for a dog-friendly winter weekend.
Obviously we couldn’t say no to this opportunity.
Andorra makes a great destination for those seeking winter sport activities. Hit the ski slopes of one of the three ski resorts for some of the most inexpensive skiing you’ll find in Europe.
The snow gods welcome our arrival with a fresh coating of deep snow, thrilling Laila who got to play in powder for the first time. The next three days were filled with snowy adventures, fabulous vegan food, and one of the best dog-friendly accommodations we’ve found in this world.
If you’re planning a winter vacation, then Andorra is the place to go. Here’s how we spent our dog-friendly winter weekend.
Andorra is well known for having one of the largest spa complexes in Europe, but this trip isn’t about the humans, it’s about the dogs. Luckily, you can still hit the spa with your pup.
That’s right, a doggy spa. GosSwim is a hydrotherapy spa for dogs founded by Silvia Grau. The idea came to her after she suffered a serious accident that required hydrotherapy. She brought her dog, Nona along one day and saw how much she loved swimming and GosSwim was born.
GosSwim features a large pool heated to 88 degrees, which allows a dog’s muscles to relax more easily. Hydrotherapy is great for all types of dogs, including senior dogs, those recovering from surgery or neurological issues, or those who just want to play or build confidence in the water.
Laila has this love hate relationship with water, so I wasn’t sure how she would react to a pool. Silvia put a vest on her and I hopped into the pool to help guide Laila inside. She was definitely uncertain with the water and flailed, but Silvia assured us this was normal. I trusted Silvia completely, as she has been working with dogs for years and studied hydrotherapy for dogs in England. It was hard not to laugh at her thrashing about, as she put on quite a show.
Laila calmed a bit the more time we spent in the water and would even dip her toes to fetch a ball when we gave her a break, so I don’t think she left too traumatized from the experience! Afterward, Laila got a bath and blow dry and came out all fluffy soft. The best part for us was that she was super tired the rest of the evening.
A vegetarian dinner that everyone will love
A new restaurant on the veggie scene, Veggie’s World is a entirely plant-based restaurant that strives to source food as locally as possible. located in the capital, Andorra la Vella, the menu changes regularly and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Per our server’s recommendation, we opted for several appetizer-sized dishes to split among three of us. Dessert, however, we each opted for our own plates. Everything we ate was fabulous, super fresh, and beautifully-presented. The menu changes regularly, so there is always something new and innovative to choose from.
Snowshoe in the Sorteny Valley
Strap on some snow shoes and hit the snowy trails of the Sorteny Valley with Experiencia e Muntanya. Our adventure took us on the Camí ral del Serrat a Sorteny, which followed the beautiful Rialb River.
Having just snowed several feet during the days prior, the snow covering the rocks created little cotton balls over the icy river. This relatively easy hike is suitable for all levels, including beginners, with stunning mountain views once you emerge from the trees. We ended at the Borda de Sorteny Hut, a mountain refuge open year round that offers lunch and dinner, WiFi connection, and a place to sleep. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted so we only viewed from the outside.
Eat a traditional Andorran meal
After working up an appetite trudging through the deep snow, head to La Neu’s Brasserie for a typical Andorran lunch based on grilled and wood-fired cooking. The menu offers something for everyone and I was beyond happy to be there during calçot season. Calçots are like green onions with a small onion bulb on the end. They are simply grilled with olive oil and sea salt and accompanied by a Romesco sauce. And they are delicious. It’s like the lobster equivalent for vegans in terms of messiness.
Walk along the River in La Messana
Pretty much everywhere you look, you’ll spot a trail in Andorra. Whether you’re in a small town or the city, you’re never too far from a hike. The city of La Messana has a lovely walk along the river. It was perfect for Laila to burn of a bit of energy and run off leash and play in the snow.
Pub and grub for dinner
Alright, And Burger Zero isn’t quite a pub, but it does serve a menu entirely of burgers and has a decent list of beers, including local brewer Boris. There is one veggie option that isn’t so much a burger as a sandwich, but you can swap a veggie burger for any of the regular burgers on the menu.
Ski Tour in Sorteny Valley
We went back to Sorteny Valley with Experiencia e Muntanya the following morning to try our hand at backcountry skiing. It’s something that we’ve always wanted to do, especially ski areas don’t tend to allow dogs.
This tour took us up the Rialb Valley to the Planell del Quer, where we skied down to the Borda de Sorteny Hut, the same spot where we ended our snowshoe the day prior. Back country skiing, for those who don’t know, is a mix of cross country and downhill skiing. Going uphill requires skins, which are sticky strips that attach to the bottom of the skis and provide grip going up.
We had an absolute blast with the new activity, even though it was one of the most physically demanding sports I’ve ever tried in my life. I was completely drained of energy by the time we finished, yet still had a huge smile on my face.
Refuel with a Healthy Meal
Brunch is not such a big phenomenon in other parts of the world as it is in places like the US, Canada, and Australia, so for those craving a big weekend inter-meal (and stellar coffee), Odei Cafe is the place to go. Owned by an Australian cycling enthusiast, Odei Cafe serves healthy meals like bowls, zoodles (zucchini noodles) with pesto sauce, and freshly squeezed juices. Also, there are heaps of dessert options, including at least one vegan selection.
Where to Stay
Quite possibly one of the most dog-friendly places we’ve ever stayed, Cal Batlle is a B&B managed by a lovely woman named, Olga. She has a sweet dog of her own, a Border Collie Pyrenees mix named Bola, who thankfully entertained Laila for at least a half hour a day. The 500-year-old stone home has been completely remodeled, yet still retains all of its charm. The rooms and common areas are cozy, the breakfast is plentiful, and there are walking trails right outside the door. Something to note, is that the B&B is adults only, no children are permitted. Finally, somewhere that allows dogs, but not children!
How to Get There
Andorra actually doesn’t have it’s own airport. The closest option is Barcelona. From there, it’s about a three-hour drive. Depending on when you arrive, it may be a good idea to spend the night in Barcelona and drive to Andorra the following day. The border is famously congested during peak hours (it took us two hours to drive 10km on a Sunday evening).
If you’re going in the winter, you’ll want to make sure that your car rental includes chains or snow tires, as they are required in Andorra.
Just How Dog-Friendly is Andorra?
Very! Dogs are allowed in the national parks, but must be on leash (though during the winter, it’s fine to allow them off leash, since there are fewer people). They’re also allowed inside many stores and restaurants, including all of the ones mentioned in this itinerary. Aside from the ski lifts and some of the mountain huts, they’re welcome in many places.