Spain Road Trip: Barcelona to Andorra la Vella and back in 6 daysThursday, April 14, 2016 Road Trips by Antonio Bordallo
Years ago my wife and I decided to go to Spain.
Since I’ve never actually been there before, she wanted to make it very special.
She proposed a road trip through Spain for starters – focusing on Catalonia.
At the end of the trip, I couldn`t agree more with her choice.
The first thought I had about the road trip Spain? Lots of sun and nice beaches. Why not?
But you know what:
Catalonia has much more to offer and in general, is a fantastic drive.
The mountains cut through Costa Brava shaping it into the fantastic scenic road on the seaside. Further, in the continental area, in fact, the range of Pyrenees Mountains creates an astonishing view.
Peaks of unique shapes attract tourist attention in the pilgrimage site of Montserrat.
The mountains extend to Andorra and provide lots of winter fun in the Andorran Ski Resort.And the country is only 140km away from the nearest beach city in Spain – Cadaqués.
All this combined results in a full on experience that Catalonia offers to the travellers a year round.
Amazing, isn’t it?
So the verdict is: if you are into Road trips – Spain is the place to go.
Now: Back to planning our road trip.
Where to arrive to start your Spain road trip?
The most practical way to start your journey is by arriving in Barcelona. Barcelona offers a full range of service you might need before you go. Including a good variety of car rental companies.
But if you are these who prefer less busy roads, your best option is to start the trip in Perpignan, France. You can catch a flight there from the UK and as a bonus enjoy the always-pleasant. Thus of Southern France.
The best itinerary starting with arrival to Barcelona is to go north and explore the inland first, eventually reaching Andorra La Vella.
Which is the capital of the micro country Andorra, and then going straight (through the mountain road) to the Spanish coast.
After arriving at the seaside, you can go South through the scenic roads of Costa Brava until you are back in Barcelona.
Further, I will expand on each point of interest I explored.
Points of Interest on the road trip through Spain.
First Stop: Montserrat
The continental Catalonia adventure starts with Montserrat (Not to be confused with a Caribbean island), a holy site for the Spanish people.Where on top of a chain of mountains lays the Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat, a pilgrimage site that receives hundreds of tourists per day who worship the Virgin of Montserrat.
But that’s not all:
You will also appreciate the gorgeous architecture of the monastery and the mountains nearby. The chain of mountains it surrounded by forms a breathtaking view!
Unexpectedly, the massive crowd of people is very reasonable and polite – The place is very big, though, there is room for everybody! It’s surprising how such an isolated, hard to reach place attracts so many people.
No matter what your religious views are, Montserrat is a must-stop on your road trip through Catalonia.
And you will keep wondering….
How did they get so much construction material to build something so big up on the mountain? The place is amazing and it deserves a post on its own, which I will write in time.
The Second Stop: Andorra la Vella
The next stop on our road trip will be Andorra.
Depending on the time you left Barcelona (and the time you spent in Montserrat) you will probably arrive closer to the evening.
Which is good.
The road to Andorra itself is quite beautiful; its soft curves harmonise very well with the soft curves of Pyrenees Mountains that you will see from the windows of your car.
The border to the country has an entrance gate, but Andorra is a part of the European Union. Thus the border control procedure is straightforward. Once you enter Andorra, a river runs side-by-side with the road, leading you to the capital – Andorra la Vella.
Despite the modern shape of some bridges, the city itself has a cosy architecture that reminded me of small Swiss villages. But what amused me was the Caldea Spa Complex. It is located right at the entrance to the city.
The building itself forms a pinnacle with sharp edges and broken shapes. This construction is the gateway to the city, as well as a good all-year-round attraction, especially if you are travelling with a family.
Obviously, in summer there is not enough snow for skiing. So walking, eating and tax-free shopping is your answer.
Yes, tax-free shopping.
I am sure I don’t need to remind you that Andorra la Vella is considered to be a tax heaven.
The Third Stop: Llívia
Leaving Andorra behind, we are turning back to continue our journey to the Costa Brava.
However, if you are into Geography, I suggest you visit one small Spanish city not far from Andorra.
It’s called Llívia.
What is interesting is that Llívia is the only Spanish city inside the French territory; it is also a French enclave of Spain – a piece of legitimate Spanish territory surrounded by the French land.
The city itself doesn’t have international borders – and in fact, it is nothing but a calm and peaceful small town. Nonetheless, if you are leaving Andorra and have some time to spare, it’s a box worth ticking.
You’ll cross international borders five times in just one day: Andorra-Spain, Spain-France (going to Llívia), France-Spain (arriving at Llívia), Spain-France (leaving Llívia) and again France-Spain (back to the Spain road trip).
And by the way:
If you stay less than a day in Andorra, you will beat my personal record!
You’ll cross the boarder 6 times!
Yes, I challenge you! Do it and let me know.
Stop Four: Figueres & Cap de Creus
Approaching the coast, but not arriving there as yet, you will reach a small town called Figueres.
It’s a must if you are in the area. The city of Figueres doesn’t have many tourist attractions, but just one is quite enough in its case:
Salvador Dalí was born here!
The city has a fantastic museum dedicated to this incredible surrealist artist, and it’s called the Dalí Theatre and Museum. Even if you are not much into museums, this one is highly recommended because of the unpredictable things you see.
Not only in the museum itself, but also in its surroundings. If you’re short on time, at least a quick walk around will get you some very awesome pictures.
In my personal case, after crossing the Pyrenees, it was already late when we arrived in Figueres, so we pre-booked a hotel. Conveniently located in the same street as the Museum, Plaza Inn has the most surreal decorations I’ve seen so far, and I highly recommend the place.
It will make your Surrealism experience complete!
Going a little further from Figueres you will reach Cap de Creus, which is the Easternmost point of the whole Iberian peninsula. If you are into Geography (again:), I’m sure you would like to brag about being there too. 😉
Fifth and final stops: Costa Brava
Leaving Figueres behind, the next stop on our way is the first city on Costa Brava: Cadaqués.
So much for a Costa Brava road trip…
Cadaqués is also related to Dalí.
Dali had a summer house here and used to visit quite a lot. You can even find the same house he used to stay in. In fact, the house doesn’t matter much, what matters is the astonishing beauty of the place, which must be the reason he had a house in Cadaqués in the first place.
Lovely place, especially for a lunch break with a view!
Back on the road.
From Cadaqués you will finally begin your Costa Brava road trip.
I promise. We will be driving to Tossa de Mar now.
There are a lot of points of interest on the way from Cadaqués to Tossa.
For example, a town called Empúries, famous for its Roman ruins.
Leaving Empúries behind, there are still many places to see on the way to Tossa.
Even if it’s only for a quick shot.
The places are:
- L’Escala (quite close to Empúries);
- Medes Islands (may require a little more time);
- Sa Riera and Tamariú (2 cities famous for their beaches);
- Calella de Palafrugell (a cute tiny town with a beautiful beach and also a resort);
- Palamós (at the bay of La Fosca and with the ruins of a castle the top of the rock);
- Sant Feliu de Guíxols
And finally, you will arrive in Tossa. I would recommend you stop for an overnight in Tossa de Mar, as the place is conveniently located exactly between Cadaqués and Barcelona.
But to be honest:
There are so many gorgeous towns in Costa Brava that I recommend at least 2 full days to go through the roads enjoying the view.
Anything less than two days would be rushing, and we don’t want that.
Tossa de Mar has its unique charm, due to a well-preserved castle and a tiny small town in the southern part of Tossa beach. To wake up and start the day by watching the sunrise is a lovely experience I recommend to everybody!
The next day, you will be getting closer to Barcelona. The number of cities worth visiting will drop the closer you get. But it doesn’t mean that the towns on the way are less interesting than the ones you’ve already seen.
Right after Tossa de Mar, there is a town of Lloret de Mar. Which has the most significant summer resort on Costa Brava. Passing Lloret de Mar you will see Blanes. It’s a calm coastal town that is considered to be the border of Costa Brava.
The Costa is over, but not the road trip!
Right after you can stop in Malgrat de Mar for its long and nice beach.
And from there it’s a nonstop road to Barcelona.
It is a nice drive that in some parts are parallel to a railroad, which in its turn goes parallel to the sand stream. Not so long until you will be back in the metropolitan area of Barcelona now.
Most of you already know that is one of the liveliest cities in Europe. I will defiantly cover Barcelona in full in one of my future posts.
I hoped you enjoyed reading about my road trip in Catalonia.
As I previously mentioned, all of the stops deserve a post of their own!
My next post I am going to dedicate to Montserrat and its beautiful Abbey.
So read on and see you in the next post!