They May Be Small, But Andorra and Liechtenstein Make Perfect Getaways

January 22nd, 2015

Comprising roughly 180 square miles, the Principality of Andorra is smaller in area than New York City. Snuggled in the midst of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, the nation’s 85,000 inhabitants welcome almost 9 million tourists annually.

Things to Do in Andorra

Skiers will enjoy the world-class resorts at Grandvalira and Vallnord. A pass good for any five days of skiing, which don’t have to be consecutive, costs 205 Euros, and a season’s pass costs about 700 euros for adults under 65 years and 500 Euros for children. Retirees’ passes only cost 300 euros.

In German, it’s called “bummeln.” In Spanish, it’s “ir a dar un paseo.” In French, it’s “aller pour une promenade.” In English, it’s called “going for a stroll.” People in Andorra walk a lot, and tourists can enjoy it however they want from a quiet walk to a vigorous constitutional. Most towns in Andorra are packed to the brim with walking trails, shops, cafes and small museums. The architecture is all Romanesque, and, in addition to La Vella Andorra, the capital, villages dot the countryside in among the snow-capped peaks. In addition to being a walkers’ heaven, Andorra also offers picturesque drives through the mountains in between the villages. Make sure to stop often and enjoy the native hospitality.

Other than skiing and strolling, the biggest draw in Andorra is the shopping. Prices are extremely reasonable, and tourists can expect to pay up to 30 percent less than in any store in Spain or France, even for designer and other well-known brands. Andorra also doesn’t charge sales tax, so shoppers with an eye for a deal can get clothing, perfume, alcohol, tobacco and even electronics at exceptionally good prices.

Getting to Andorra

There are no fixed-wing airports in Andorra, and there is no train service except to a small station 3 kilometers outside the Andorran border. There are a couple of heliports should one desire to charter a helicopter, however, and vacationers can also get to Andorra by the traditional methods of car or bus.

Liechtenstein

This Principality is only one-third the size of Andorra and has less than half its population. It sits between Austria and Switzerland in the Alps, and its topography is much like its Pyrenean cousin. Unlike Andorra, which is immensely popular because of its non-existent taxes, Liechtenstein will appeal to those travelers who would like a peaceful retreat on vacation. Only 53,000 people venture across the border annually, not counting those who travel along the Rhine River, which makes up the country’s western frontier.

Things to Do in Liechtenstein

Being in the Alps, Liechtenstein offers fantastic skiing at its single, world-class resort: Malbun. Liechtenstein’s native skiers account for all of the country’s nine Olympic medals. It would not be unheard of for visitors to swap stories with one of Liechtenstein’s medalists by a roaring fire in Malbun’s ski lodge. During the peak season, ski passes cost between 47 Swiss Francs for adults for one day to 277 Swiss Francs for an adult for 12 days.

The capital is Vaduz, which has a modest population of around 5,000. It’s got much to see, however, and the city’s cathedral and castle are great attractions. Although visitors cannot actually enter the castle because it’s still the home of the Prince, the grounds are beautiful and surrounded by walking trails through the nearby hills. The capital even has its own soccer team that plays in the Swiss Challenge League: FC Vaduz. Although the team has never won any of Europe’s notable competitions, it has had sporadic success. The stadium actually seats more people than live in the capital.

In the countryside, people can enjoy the amazing scenery either on foot or by car. It only takes about a half-hour to drive the entire width or breadth of Liechtenstein, but there are many tiny villages to explore, such as Triesenberg. The architecture of this village and its surroundings is distinctly German, but the language spoken by the natives in the area is derived from that of Walser immigrants who came to the area about 750 years ago.

Getting to Liechtenstein

There is no airport, but vacationers can easily find their way there by rail or automobile. Unless staying longer than 90 days, travelers from North American or the European Union will only need a passport to enter the Principality. The government strongly recommends having at least six months of validity on any passport. Otherwise, a tourist visa is necessary. The only ways to get to Liechtenstein, however, are through Switzerland or Austria, so their visa requirements apply too.

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