8 reasons to go biking in Andorra
Andorra is a hidden gem for cyclists. Year on year it’s growing in popularity, but still plenty of people overlook the country. Read here our 8 reasons why you should consider Andorra for your next biking destination.
1. Awesome roads
For the road quality in Andorra I can only use 1 word: Perfect! The road quality is really good. You have to search for holes or bad roads. There is a possibility to have a little bump when you go higher. The winter must be hard at altitude and might impact the road, but those few spots can’t influence the overall feeling. It’s really a relief for people from Belgium, where the quality is not always high for cyclists. The roads are also not very crowded with cars. I think only the climb to the Port d’Envalira is busy. This is mainly because it’s on the main road of Andorra, which brings you from France to Spain.
2. Panoramic views
As you continue to conquer more and more climbs in Andorra, you will experience constantly different views and environments. Each climb has its own characteristics. Most climbs start from the central road and might be a bit crowded in the beginning, but very quickly you reach full nature. At some climbs we really didn’t spot any car or person.
Sometimes I think it’s hard to stop and really enjoy the views. When I’m climbing, mostly I want to go to the top at once. On the other hand, when I’m descending, I want to enjoy some speed and I also think it’s difficult to stop for pictures. Now, when I’m climbing at 8% gradient, I don’t go that fast, so there is time enough to enjoy it with my own eyes. Anyway, pictures fail to represent how the view really was.
3. Information on the climbs
Andorra government has invested in cycling tourism. First they provide a nice digital overview of the 21 official climbs (see later in this post to download the file). They also suggest a few routes to address those climbs. Then, on every climb, you find a sign with information at the start of the climb. During your journey up, you’ll see a new sign every kilometer which will inform you about the gradient for the upcoming kilometer, how far it still is till the top and on what altitude you are. At the top you will find another sign which you can use as proof you conquered the hill. As on many other locations, the signs are often decorated with stickers from organizations, clubs and many more. All part of the experience.
4. All kind of levels
There are 21 official climbs: Andorra 21 official climbs. Those 21 climbs range from easy to difficult. Their distance ranges from 4.5 km to 25 km. The average gradient is from easy to hard. Off course an average gradient doesn’t say it all. Sometimes you could have a (short) decent which influences the overall gradient heavily. Concrete it means that a climb with average gradient of 5% might be much harder than a climb with average gradient of 7%.
Looking at the profile will tell you a lot. Next to the gradient and distance, it also depends on the weather. We had days where temperature went up to 25 degrees and above, and then, the first kilometers of the climb can be very hard. Luckily the temperature normally drops the higher you climb. When you go above 1800 meters of altitude, it should not be too hot.
Next to gradient, length and temperature it also depends on the length of your ride. When you limit yourself to 1 or 2 climbs a day with total length under 50 kilometers, it might be quite easy. Our Queen stage, with 121 km and + 3500 altitude meters under blue sky and temperatures of 25 degrees was really hard. we all suffered at the end. However, after a shower, some food and during a drink, the memory starts to grow together with the satisfaction and proudness.
5. Reach most climbs with your bike from your accomodation
Unless you are staying in El Tarter or Soldeu all climbs are reachable from your accommodation. We were staying in La Massana which is a perfect starting point to go out and explore all climbs of Andorra.
When you would stay in El Tarter or Soldeu you have to finish with the climb towards Envalira. The climb is not particular difficult, but with it’s 25 kilometer it’s a long one. In the morning it might be fun going down to the capital or in the direction of Spain, but keep in mind that the only way back will be up 🙂
La Massana is only a few kilometers away from the capital Andorra la Vella but it’s located it little higher. So we as well had to finish some days with a last short climb of 3 kilometers and +/- 300 altitude meters. Not extremely hard, but after multiple climbs, you should not forget about this. Certainly as after noon, temperature might be higher.
The Vallnord Bike Park la Massana is one of the biggest and famous bike parks. 3 time World Champion Peter Sagan has been exploring the area. You have multiple downhill tracks, enduro, cross-country, pump track and many more. During our visit we did not had the time to explore it like we have done in Pila back in 2008.
When we conquered the climb from Erts to Estacio de Pal on the last day, we have explored the entrance area, where you also have a karting track. There was a vibrant atmosphere and bikers come and go.
7. Affordable accomodation
Andorra is an extensive ski area which has led to plenty of accommodation to support winter tourism. However, most of those are empty during summer season. Nowadays many of those are available via AirBnb for affordable prices. To give some idea, for a 2 bedroom appartment of 99m² with 2 full bathrooms we paid 1.000 euro for a week.
Our AirBnb appartment: Spacious appartment in La Massana
8. Professional cyclists on the roads
Although Andorra is no tax paradise like Monaco, it is still very interesting. With an income tax capped at 10% and a VAT at 4.5%. When you fuel your car, it can easily differ 35 – 45 euro per refuel. It was Joaquim Rodriguez that first discovered Andorra and word to mouth made it go quickly. There is no official list of professional cyclists living in Andorra, but you can find on the internet that Julian Alaphippe, Simon Yates, Eric Mas and many other are resident of the principality.
When you go out for a ride it’s hard to not spot some professional cyclist. During our trip we saw plenty of them from different teams: Ineos, Trek, Quick Step, Movistar, Euskatel… We even saw some of them several times, like Shane Archbold from Quick Step. It’s incredible to see with what speed they go up the climbs
There are no flat roads in Andorra. If you are lucky you might find 500 meter to 1 km of flat road. For the rest it’s either up or down. We went to Andorra to conquer the climbs and we were also trained for it. Nevertheless, it might sometimes be nice to have an easier part which is almost flat. A road around a lake of about 30 km would be really nice for example on the restday. For us it was not really a problem, but still, it’s better that you know what to expect 🙂