When I first came to Andorra, I didn’t really know where in the country we should live. I’d read a few things online and watched a couple of videos, but none of them told the full story.
I chose to live in Andorra for the lifestyle it offers, and being what I consider to be one of the best countries for entrepreneurs.
Naturally, I wanted to pick the best place to live in the country that suited my needs.
Some of the residency agents I spoke with early in the process had advice to give, but most of the time this was heavily biased around their own personal preferences.
In this post I’ll run you through each region, give some pros and cons and tell you my favourite areas of each comu.
What you want from the location you choose to live in Andorra will be different to me, but my aim is to help you to narrow down your options, so you too can find the best place to live in Andorra.
Andorra la Vella
- Area: 12km²
- Elevation: 1,023m
- Population: 22,256
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The capital of Andorra, Andorra la Vella is for those looking for proximity to the city. Apartment life is most common here, though there are some amazing villas on the Northern side of the valley.
Pros: Here you are walking distance to everything you need for day to day life; supermarkets, government, schools, the hospital (though it is in Escaldes-Engordany), banks, shopping, bars and restaurants.
Cons: If you have an aversion to busy streets and lots of people, it may be best to avoid as it’s population dense. Most of the time it is quiet by city standards, but on a busy tourist weekend it can be mayhem. Depending on the property you choose, parking may be an issue.
My favourite areas: the sunnier Northern side of Andorra la Vella is where I’d want to be. Up behind the hospital, you’ll find the Rec del Solà. From here you’ll be able to look down on many of the privileged properties of this area. Despite being a stones throw from the city, it’s a quiet place to be.
- Area: 121km²
- Elevation: 1,526m
- Population: 4,826
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With a gondola link to Grandvalira ski resort, Canillo can be a great place to buy property or rent in Andorra.
The centre of Canillo has a charming old town, a supermarket, service station, restaurants and bars. Nearby you’ll find the Museu de la Moto, Roc del Quer, via ferrata, the Sanctuary of Meritxell Basilica and loads of hiking trails.
Pros: Small enough to be charming, but enough tourists to warrant many supporting businesses, you won’t feel as though you’re living in a country town. Venture further out and it’s possible to hike, bike, ski tour or snowshoe from your door.
Cons: The road to Andorra la Vella can become congested during peak hour, especially on big tourism weekends. It has seen a lot of improvements over the past few years, when these are finished this situation may be much better.
My favourite areas: While the old town in Canillo itself is beautiful, I’d potentially give a kidney for one of the few, spectacular properties high up on Carretera de Montaup or in Vall d’Incles.
Potentially the best opportunities however, are in El Forn. Secluded and beautiful, this area is only ~5 minutes by car to the schools and shops of Canillo, but feels a world away.
Depending on how high up you go however, you may want to consider a 4×4, as these roads aren’t likely to be first preference for clearing.
- Area: 74km²
- Elevation: 1,238m
- Population: 13,521
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Known by some to be a “working class” comu, Encamp is where you’ll hear plenty of Portuguese in your day to day life. It’s typically cheaper to buy or rent in Encamp than it is in most other comus, a good opportunity if you’re willing to take it.
When driving out of Andorra into France, you’ll pass through Encamp once more through Pas de la Casa. The Pas isn’t for me, but if living there suits your needs you can likely get a sensational deal due to an oversupply and lack of demand.
Pros: 5-10 mins drive to the city. Encamp has it’s own gym, school, supermarkets, banks, bars and restaurants, along with a gondola for Granvalira ski resort. It’s very well serviced.
Cons: The centre of Encamp isn’t the prettiest; it is potentially higher density than the city. It’s a busy village from my point of view.
My favourite areas: Without a doubt, Vila which gets sun all day long, or els Cortals d’Encamp. If you are in/out of home regularly and need good road access, check out Vila. Reports from friends who live there are that they rarely need to turn the heater on, even in winter, thanks to the direct sun.
If you are more interested in a secluded spot, go for a drive up Els Cortals d’Encamp. It is absolutely gorgeous in summer, and close to the end of a walk that runs all the way through to Llac d’Engolasters.
Just be weary of where you consider here, as it will be cold during winter in the shade and road access may be tricky on a handful of days each winter.
- Area: 30km²
- Elevation: 1,050m
- Population: 14,395
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Don’t be fooled, Escaldes is different to Andorra la Vella. The comu is split half way up the shopping mall of Avinguda Meritxell, along Carrer de la Unió.
Escaldes is diverse in that it houses part of Andorra’s business and shopping district, modern and new apartments, 7 figure villas, restored farm houses, a thermal spa resort and a good portion of Andorra’s UNESCO World Heritage site.
Pros: Very central, with lots of options on how you choose to live; from secluded to right in the middle of everything. Everything that you can access from Andorra la Vella is only a stone’s throw from Les Escaldes.
Cons: Similar to Andorra la Vella, you’re at the mercy of the traffic. If the tourists are in town, you’ll know about it. Parking can be an issue, or at the very least will end up being expensive over time, so factor it into any property you look at.
My favourite areas: While there are some spectacular properties in Els Vilars, my pick is on the road towards Engolasters. You’re only 5 minutes from the city, but with the right property you’d never know about it aside from the incredible views. This seems to be an under-appreciated area, so prices seem to be reasonable.
Dramatic music aside, this video gives you a fairly good idea of what the views are like from high on the Engolasters road.
- Area: 65km²
- Elevation: 1,240m
- Population: 10,359
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The town of La Massana itself is where the main telecabina for Vallnord’s ski and bike resort begins, and where you’ll find restaurants, bars, supermarkets, doctors, dentists, a school, mechanics and so on.
It’s often where most expats begin their time in the country after deciding to live in Andorra. An international school is located in L’Aldosa.
La Massana is where it’s not uncommon to hear conversations in English on the streets. In fact if you head further north to Arinsal, you will meet staff that are fluent in English but have only learned basic Catalan or Spanish.
To anyone who isn’t a native English speaker, it’s a good enough reason to avoid Arinsal, but to others this is the familiarity they need to feel at home.
Pros: Has everything you need. You could comfortably live in La Massana, only venturing down to the city once every few months. It’s a great commune to live in if you’re active as there are many opportunities for sports, such as hiking, biking, skiing, via ferrata, horse riding and so on. Lots of English.
Cons: Traffic in/out of La Massana can get congested on busy days or during peak hour. The main street of La Massana isn’t the most attractive. Drunk Brits (kidding, I think this is seriously overstated).
My favourite areas: l’Aldosa is a gorgeous spot; close enough to everything but quietly tucked away. Otherwise Escàs, as it’s at the bottom of the bike park, is a short walk to the main street and still gets sun.
If you are a cyclist, Els Oriosis of Anyós is a great place to live, as it’s right next to one of Ordino’s most popular cycling routes, Beixalis.
Locals will probably feel otherwise, but I find Arinsal to be a good opportunity. What was once a bit of a ghost town now in Summer seems to be filling up with year round residents as more and more people call Andorra home.
- Area: 85km²
- Elevation: 1,300m
- Population: 4,858
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The place I’ve been calling home since moving to Andorra, Ordino is very scenic and fairly distributed. The main town of Ordino is where a good portion of it’s residents live, and is home to most of the services, such as the school, gymnasium, bars, a bakery, restaurants and a general store.
There are no real supermarkets in Ordino, so you need to head to La Massana or the city.
As far North as you can go in Ordino is where you’ll find Arcalis, part of Vallnord’s ski resort. This is where many of the locals will ski. From my point of view, the snow is better and you get more of it to yourself!
In summer, Ordino is a hiker’s paradise, with loads of trails and beautiful lakes. For my needs, Ordino is the best place to live in Andorra.
Pros: Close communities, with many options to live in smaller villages, all well serviced near a major road. Great snow, loads of natural environment next to your door. Gorgeous old town.
Cons: Potentially the coldest area to live, where you’ll be lucky to find a property that gets full sun all day long. No supermarket, though this is slowly changing as the Carrefour Express at the local service station grows. Can be blocked by traffic to the city on busy days or when there is heavy snow.
My favourite areas: Segudet, near the school is unbelievably handy to the old town, where you can grab a morning coffee, but it’s still nice and quiet. A few kilometres north you’ll find La Cortinada, which has a small golf course and is equally as beautiful.
For bargain hunters, El Serrat is where you can find houses for the price of townhouses, but keep in mind it’s an extra 5-10 minutes in the car each way to/from the city and some pockets are brutally cold.
Sant Julià de Lòria
- Area: 61km²
- Elevation: 908m
- Population: 9,207
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The southernmost comu of Andorra, Sant Julià de Lòria is lowest in elevation too, typically bringing warmer weather. It’s the home of Andorra’s university, Naturlandia, some enormous shopping centres and many world class cycling routes.
Pros: If you travel regularly like many of the pilots that call Andorra home, Sant Julià is surely worth a look in. Only a few minutes drive to the border into Catalonia, it’s as close as you’re going to get to Barcelona airport. It’s warm, has everything you need, and property prices are some of the cheapest in the country.
Cons: As a mountain biker, the steepness of the roads here make my knees hurt just thinking about it. Whether you’re biking or driving, there’s a lot of up and down involved if you want to live in a more scenic area.
My favourite areas: In Aixirivall one can pick up a chalet with garden and insane views for the price of a penthouse in Andorra la Vella, and you’ll likely get a lot more sun.
If I, like the many people who buy a second home in Andorra, were only visiting to escape the heat in summer, I’d strongly consider Bixessarri. It’s a gorgeous little town in a valley, set next to Riu d’Os.
The Good News…
The best part about Andorra is that no matter where you are, you’re only ever a half an hour away from anything; maybe an hour on a heavy snow day.
Further to this, every home in Andorra has fibre optic internet, so you don’t need to worry about living in a bad area for internet.
Still Not Sure Where to Live in Andorra?
Of course, if you’re moving to Andorra for good, the place you choose can make or break your experience.
Avoiding the wrong place to live can really help you and your family make the most of your move to your new home.
If you want some help finding the best place to live in Andorra, leave a comment below with some info about what you want from living in Andorra and the areas that you have on your short list. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction!
Timothy Hardwicke says
Thanks so much this was so helpful and informative. I fell In love with Andorra years ago from going there on ski holidays and am dreaming about having a holiday home there one day.
Best of luck…
Hi Timothy, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and for your kind words. I hope that dream becomes a reality one day soon!
David Mount says
Hey Jase, I had a few questions about Andorra. Could you shoot me an email? I was wondering where the best place to buy would be in order to rent during ski season and live from May-August. Thanks
If you’re looking to rent it out during ski season, purely for convenience sake I’d be buying anywhere within short walking distance to a telecabina. There are some maps for reference in this article on the ski resorts that might be helpful.
That said, I seem to be the odd one out who hates renting cars, and it appears that a lot of tourists who come for ski season will stay just about anywhere. Andorra’s a small country so there’s not a lot of property on the market. It’s best to leave your options open otherwise you’ll pay through the nose for the perfect property!
Hope that helps!
Paul Senior says
Thanks for the overview, all great information and something I had not really considered is your reference throughout to where the sun shines most and winter accessibility to certain areas a little higher up.
Myself and my wife are keen skiers and are seriously thinking of Andorra as a base to gradualy drift into retirement and at the same time leave the sinking ship back in the UK. We are thinking of buying and moving out during summer of 2020 but, might also consider renting for say 6 months or so first. I’m told that can be an issue in the country as short lets are not normal but do you have any experience with that?
Also we are pretty good skiers and need freeride or off-piste wherever we can find it but then would like to be able to walk or at worst bus it to the lifts. So any more specific ideas along those lines would be most appreciated.
And thanks again for the blog information already!
Short term leases can be difficult, especially during Winter where those apartments are most valuable for nightly rental. Of course, if you are willing to spend a little extra, anything is possible.
For convenience sake, Arinsal or La Massana are easy and where many expats live. Encamp and Canillo are other options. All have telecabinas local within walking distance. All resorts have buses however, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. There’s also a fairly prevalent hitch-hiking culture so if it comes to it, you have a backup option.
Hope that helps!
Vivian Turner says
Hi Jase! Thank you for this thorough review! Our family (US/UK) will hopefully be relocating to Andorra late summer. My husband will be teaching and I will be home with our 5 yr old. You have given so many details that will really help as we start to look into the best fit for us! I am sure we will be in touch with more questions soon! Thanks again for this beautiful collection of info!!
Vivian, Andy and Jack
Thank you for your comprehensive blog on Andorra. We are US currently living in Germany and briefly drove through Andorra several years ago. After watching the recent Tour de France meander through Andorra, it rekindled our interest and discussions about buying a place in Andorra. You touched on a few points that are important when considering a purchase – sunlight, traffic, shopping and tourist mayhem. Since we love the outdoors (skiing and hiking) as much as wining and dining are there areas we should consider overlooking? We have found in both Italy and Germany many little villages roll up the sidewalks during quieter times.
We’re also not considering living there full time, what issues could pose a challenge, such as buying and registering a car, utilities, property ownership etc?
Very difficult to answer as it’s a highly individual thing. But by the sounds of it, quiet and access to trails are a higher priority than convenience. If this is the case, the parroquias of Canillo and Encamp may be your best opportunities. Prices here are cheaper and it’s easier to get a place with some peace and quiet nearby. Roads are generally less jammed up, though at certain times of the year this is simply unavoidable anywhere. The sacrifice is, with the exception of Encamp or Canillo villages, or Pas de la Casa (which I doubt you want to live in), there are few restaurants operating outside of winter.
Further out of Sant Julia (Aixirivall, Aubinyà, Bixessari, etc) may also be an option for you to explore too, as well as Engolasters.
Thank you Jase, most helpful considering we painted a broad brushstroke of our desires. Regarding resturants open after the winter, where do locals go?
There are plenty of options throughout the rest of the year in each parish, but specifically the entirety of Andorra la Vella and Escaldes is open year round (with the exception of a few holidays here and there). It’s only really Arinsal, Soldeu, Ransol and so on, the true “resort” areas that close up on the shoulder seasons, and as the country is growing with more residents, this is happening less and less.
Hi Jase, thanks very much for your efforts in creating this resourceful and engaging guide for everyone! Would you happen to know how easy it is to buy buildable land in Andorra and whether living very close to some lake is possible by any chance?
Many thanks Jase! Beers on me when I am there next!
Hi Fed, my pleasure, glad it’s been of help to you.
It’s entirely possible to buy buildable land in Andorra, but buying next to a lake is going to be difficult. To the best of my knowledge, your best bet is going to be short walking distance (not visual) to “llac d’Engolasters”. If you’re willing to settle for a river, it’s going to be much easier, with many properties backing right onto the water.
Thank you very much Jase!! Ok, that’s very useful to know! I will start looking for some scenic rivers then! May I ask one more thing regarding which areas/towns of Andorra you would say will appreciate the most in the next 5 to 10 years and why please?
Thanks so much!
That’s very difficult to say. Before my time in the country, Sant Julia was especially popular with expats as it was the closest to the Spanish border, and generally has the warmest weather, but when I arrived, La Massana and Ordino were more of the expat spots. Now more and more families are favouring Escaldes as they prefer the “small city” lifestyle. If I was a gambling man I’d say Escaldes is the spot, but it’s probably also the most difficult for development.
Niall Doherty says
Great write up, Jase. I didn’t know about many of the specific spots you mentioned, will have to check them out. Our hunt for a residence in Andorra will be starting soon!
Glad it was helpful Niall! Let’s be real, the list is very subjective. My main goal is to pique people’s curiosity and help them to explore some options that they may have otherwise not considered. All the best in your hunt!
Hi Jase, we’re coming out for a week in September, hiring a car so plenty of time to check out as much as possible.
We’re keen (not very good!) skiers & very keen hikers.
We like going to bars and restaurants but prefer things to be on the quieter side, I realise Andorra is a tourist destination so there will be times when it’s very busy but we’d prefer to be in a small town rather than somewhere like the capital.
If we relocated we’d have a car for groceries, getting to shops etc.
We’d need somewhere with more houses than apartments as we have 2 dogs, hence needing a house.
So from your write up and having had a search it appears that Canillo and Ordino would perhaps be a good fit and maybe towards the West of Encamp.
La Massana may be a bit too busy for us.
What do you think?
Hi Mike, I think you have some good ideas on areas to explore there. For Ordino, you may want to head as close to Arcalis as you can, in El Serrat. In addition, it’s worth driving about Sant Julia as well, as houses are much more affordable, the views are epic, and you have tons of hiking nearby. Skiing is a bit more limited, but if you’re into touring/skimo, you can head to Naturland.
September is an awesome time to check out the country. Still great weather, often some epic storms that are over and done with in a few hours, and far fewer tourists! All the best with your search.
Thanks for the reply Jase, looking forward to seeing Andorra.
Hi Jase, this has been really helpful. I am considering buying a property and living in Andorra for a few years. Unfortunately I will most likely have to leave in 5 to 10 years. A couple of Qs:
how liquid is the real estate market? Are apartments generally sought after more than houses? Is La Vella / Escaldes the only logical choice if one in the future will have to move on and sell the property within a reasonable timeframe?
what are the parishes with the highest amount of sunshine? I am assuming a north property on a mountain side looking south will get the most sun but not sure how steep are the mountains around it
Do La Vella / Escaldes take away the feeling of being in the mountains? Meaning traffic, pollution and high density of population make them significantly less attractive? I like the idea of not depending on a car to go eat outside, have few nice beers out or even go to the gym, but don’t want to be trapped in a place that feels like a little congested European city
Thanks so much!!
Hi Karl, glad it’s been helpful. To answer your questions:
I hope this helps.