Date printed: 31 October 2014
Active Pyrenees - Family Holiday
Squeezed between Spain and France, the mountainous principality of Andorra is a perfect place for an action-packed summer activity week. On this trip you’ll experience the best of the region with walking to the beautiful Siscaro Lakes and in the stunning Incles Valley. There’s plenty of chance for mountain biking, including going through the Cortals Valley and downhill into Spain where you’ll get the adrenalin pumping as you shoot the rapids; white water rafting down world-class rivers near Sort. There’s also the chance to get off the beaten track with a 4WD excursion along old smugglers’ routes. The mountain scenery is fantastic, the climate perfect and the experiences thrilling!
Itinerary (Without Flights)
Arrive in Toulouse
Your trip starts in Toulouse, where you transfer to your first night’s accommodation (approx. 3-4 hours), journeying south by chartered bus to Soldeu in Andorra. You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts. For information on when the trip ends please refer to the itinerary as described below.
Situated on the southern slopes of the Pyrenees, squashed between France and Spain, the principality of Andorra measures a mere 25km by 30km. Andorra’s independence can be traced back to Charlemagne, who captured the region from the Muslims in 803 AD but it was only in 1993 that the Andorran people voted to establish the country as an independent and democratic state. Although small, Andorra is blessed with some of the finest scenery in the Pyrenees and is a great place for an active week in the mountains. Hotel (AA) - 7 nights (B)
This morning you will take your first excursion out into the impressive mountains of this tiny country. The drive to Port Envalira takes approximately 30 minutes and at 2,408 metres is boasted as being the highest road pass in Europe, helping to connect El Pas de la Casa to the rest of the country. Starting at 2,500m you have a short 100m climb to the summit of Pic Maia. At this height there are spectacular views across the Andorran mountains.
From here the rest of the day is a ridge walk. Being mostly flat or downhill, this is a great introduction to the Pyrenees, and a chance to stretch your legs and acclimatize to the altitude. The scenery is stunning and the walk will hopefully give you the chance to see some of Andorra’s flora and fauna. It is always worth keeping an eye out for the griffon vultures which are often seen circling high overhead. On the way you will pass the Siscaro Lakes which on hotter days, are a pleasant place to have a swim. From here the descent is more rapid and the path brings you out right opposite the hotel. You will arrive back at the hotel between 3pm and 4pm giving you a chance to either relax in the sun, take the bikes out for a ride, or visit one of the neighbouring hotel’s spa centres. (BD)
Cortals Valley; cycling & walking
Today’s full day of activities take place in the stunningly beautiful Cortals Valley, about a 30 minute drive away. Half-way up the valley you jump on the bikes for a ride along a flat track to the Engolasters Lake giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Around the lake there are plenty of fun tracks to be taken and you normally have the choice between an easy flat track and a more exciting path through the woods. For those slightly less energetic there is also a lakeside bar. Retracing your route you return to the vehicles. You have the option to ride the demanding 3km tarmac road ascent to the barbeque area – a climb that follows part of the Tour of Spain route. However, the vehicles are available for anyone not fancying this. For lunch you will stop in a Pyrenean meadow and there is time to enjoy a picnic, which you will have had time to buy before you set off.
After lunch you mount your bikes once more for the last part of the day’s cycling as you head for the top of the valley. From here you cross a rope-suspended bridge and take an off-road descent followed by an on-road exhilarating switch-back descent to Encamp – a total descent of over 800m. For anyone not wishing to cycle the routes they can be done on foot and there is a possibility of taking the longest gondola (ski lift) ride in Europe. At the end of the day you return by vehicle to Soldeu. (BD)
Soldeu – Free Day
Today has been left free for you to choose from the many activities that are on offer in Andorra. You may decide to go horse riding, or visit the thermal baths of La Caldea. Take to the trees for tree-top zip-lining or go canyoning. If you have a head for heights you can try your hand at Via Ferrata climbing. There are of course plenty more opportunities for walking and mountain biking or you could simply choose to relax enjoy the sunshine or go duty free shopping. (BD)
The Old Smugglers Route & Rafting
Crossing the border into Spain you take a high mountain pass over the Port de Canto through very Mediterranean style scenery but still at 1000 metres high, a chance to stop at the Port de Canto lookout point to take in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. Then on down to the village of Sort, Catalan for "luck", where at the rafting centre you are kitted out with westuits, helmets, life jackets and a paddle. From the top of the Noguera River you have 14 km of exhilirating white water rafting (minimum 8 years to participate and 8-12 year olds will only be able to raft on grade I & II). Noguera River is renowned as one of the top 5 rafting rivers in Europe, this is because of the good stretches of continuous but not too rough white water and a very high level of safety with many "get out" points.
After a fun ride over a weir and through the Olympic kayaking course, you arrive back at the rafting centre where there are changing rooms and showers. The centre has a beautiful garden with a swimming pool where there is a chance to play some more in the water or just relax in the sun with a refreshment from the bar, before setting off nack to Soldeu.
The Iron Route
Setting off in the vehicles and with the bikes, you head off to the Ordino Valley, one of the most picturesque in Andorra. Starting at the top end of the valley at 2000m you get fitted with a bike and helmet and then follow with a guide the old iron route of Andorra. Iron was Andorra's first industry which brought the first real settlements to the area. Easy going off road tracks take you along the valley past the old iron mines, mills, and forges finishing in the village of Ordino.
The tracks are mostly wide 4x4 dirt surfaces, no cars take these routes, and though the ground might be a bit rough in places, no technical mountain biking skills are needed, just a good knowledge of normal bike riding. After a rest and refreshment in the village you are back in the vehicles and up to the col de beixalls at 1800m where you are back on the bikes for a thrilling 8km off road descent into Encamp. Throughout the day there will be full vehicle support so that if people prefer not to bike it is possible to walk and/or ride in the 4x4. From Encamp it is just a short 15 min drive back to the hotel arriving between 5pm and 6pm. (BD)
A short drive takes you into the Incles Valley, where you start today’s walk, beginning along the forested mountain slopes. This part of the walk is along a single track through the woods where there are many examples of pine forest plants, lots of beautiful flowers, rhododendrons in June, wild fruit midsummer and wild mushrooms in September. Arriving on a plateau just above the tree line at 2000m, the gradient lessens as you reach the beautiful Querol and Salamander Lakes.
It is common to see groups of thickset mountain horses grazing on these high slopes. The horses are allowed to roam free and normally have large bells strapped around their necks to allow the owners to find them. Contouring along the valley you come to the Cabana Sorda Lake sitting below an impressive semi-circular amphitheatre of rock - an ideal spot to stop for lunch. From the lake, eager walkers can continue the hike up to the peak at around 2600m giving you an amazing bird’s eye view of the valley. For the people staying at the lake there is the chance to have a swim, a refreshing dip in a waterfall or watch the fishermen - there are plenty of mountain trout. After lunch you’ll descend off the grassy higher slopes through thick woodland to the top of the valley where you can either take transport back to the hotel or, for those with more energy, you can continue back on foot. (BD)
This morning, you transfer by bus to the airport in Toulouse where the trip ends. (B)
This is an active trip requiring no previous experience, although an ability to cycle for the mountain biking and an ability to swim for the rafting is essential. Days of mountain biking, walking and rafting can be a rigorous test of stamina, but with full vehicle support we believe anyone in good health should be capable of participating. The difficulty of the walks and rides will depend on the ability of the group and is adjusted accordingly. Minimum age: 5 years
The decision to partake in any activity not listed as an optional activity is entirely at your own discretion and risk. If you do have any complaint about or problem with, any such optional activity your claim should be directed to the activity provider and not to The Adventure Company.
Family First Accommodation
As the leader in providing Family Adventure holidays, we fully understand the importance to you of clean, comfortable, family friendly accommodation. Our families team hand-pick all of our accommodation to provide you with the best value and best experience possible. We are so confident in our accommodation selections, that we name every property that you will stay in on all our Family Adventures, so that you can be fully confident in your holiday choice.
We use a variety of accommodation around the world. Wherever possible we try to ensure that this is in keeping with the itinerary and the region that you are visiting. To give you a feel for the standard, we have provided an accommodation grading for each night. However please bear in mind that these are intended as a guide and are not based on 'star' ratings, so there will be variations within each grade: AA - Hotels, lodges or guesthouses, usually with en suite facilities. These are generally simple hotels with adequate amenities. Whilst comfort levels are perfectly acceptable, there are generally no added facilities
Rooming in Hotels
When arranging rooming for our trips, we try to meet the needs of all families. As families come in all sizes, we do not offer a set formula regarding rooming arrangements, and we ask you to be as flexible as possible. Our trips are based on a twin share basis, but we try to accommodate families in triple or family rooms if available. Full details of our rooming procedure can be found here. Very occasionally rooming is in communal or dorm style rooms where you'll share with other families. Where relevant this is indicated in the itinerary.
On occasion late hotel changes are unavoidable and you will get final confirmation of the particular hotels for your trip when you receive your joining instructions.
Some or all of the excursions detailed below may be available. Approximate costs are given for guidance only and may depend on the number of participants. Your Group Leader should be able to assist you in arranging them.
Horse riding €20.00
Caldea Thermal Bath £20.00
Canyoning €35.00 (Minimum age 10)
Zip Wire £15.00
Clothing and Footwear
Below is a suggestion of what you might find useful to take on this trip. It is not an exhaustive packing list and it is important to remember that due to the mountainous location of this tour, weather can change for the worse quickly. You must bring appropriate clothing and footwear to prepare for these changes. If you need further advice, please call us or consult your nearest specialist outdoor clothing and equipment store.
- Lightweight cotton clothing
- Warm mid-layer i.e. fleece for evenings/mornings
- Wind/waterproof jacket
- Lightweight trail/walking boots or shoes. Sandals are not suitable for the activities.
- Cycle shorts (we supply cycle helmets) – you may also find cycling gloves useful.
- Swimming costume
- Water bottle
- Sunglasses (especially useful when biking), sunscreen and lipsalve
- Insect repellent
- Personal First Aid kit
- Elbow & Knee Pads - For Children
- A penknife may be useful
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc
We stay in locally owned hotels and pensions, use resident leaders and guides and use locally owned transport; this helps distribute amongst a wide number of people the money we spend. Because our groups are small, it is easier to monitor and control the impact on the environment through the areas we travel
Most people buy packed lunches – you might find a sealable plastic box useful for storing it in your daypack. Although not essential, gloves for cycling make it more comfortable – especially if you grip hard. Language – Most people in Andorra speak Catalan, Spanish and French so it’s a great place to try out your language skills. But don’t worry if you can’t remember your fromage from your queso or your chapeaux from your sombreros as English is also widely spoken
For better or worse, tipping is an accepted part of everyday life, and - although it is always at your discretion - you will be expected to tip to reward service. Your Group Leader will be able to give you an indication of when and how much is appropriate. This can vary widely, but calculate on the basis of £20 per person (including children) for the trip. Also, if you wish to tip your Group Leader (in recognition of their contribution towards your overall enjoyment of the holiday) a suggested guideline would be approximately £1 to £2 per person, per day.
Currency - Andorra
The Euro. You should take sufficient cash to get you through at least the first few days. Owners of bankcards with the Cirrus logo can get cash from ATMs (cash point machines). Credit cards (MasterCard and Visa) can be used in some places. There are approximately 1.20 Euros to one British pound (as at August 10).
Local Costs - Andorra
Approximate costs in the local currency are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Soft drink €1.50
Medium beer €1.80
Bottle of wine €9.00
Local snack lunch €11.00
3-course dinner* €15.00
*reasonable mid-range tourist class restaurant.
Visas & Permits - Andorra
Holders of UK, IRL and other EU passports do not require a visa. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Information can also be found on www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Vaccinations - Andorra
None recommended but you should have up to date tetanus and polio immunisations. Please note that EHIC’s (European Health Insurance Certificates) are not valid in Andorra.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information. A specialist travel clinic should also be able to advise regarding any special vaccination requirements for your children.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
For most trips prices are based on sharing a twin room. Therefore, if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be paired with someone from the group of the same sex, unless you decide to pay a single room supplement. Details of this supplement can be found on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website. Occasionally we use multiple-share or dormitory accommodation – particularly when stating in remote places.
Rooming arrangements – Family trips
If you’re a family of 2 you’ll be accommodated in a twin room. If you’re a family of three you will usually be accommodated in a triple room. If you’re a family of four you’ll probably be accommodated in two twin rooms and we’ll do our best to ensure they’re as near as possible. We cannot always guarantee a triple room. If a triple room is not available, an adult from your family will automatically be roomed with a fellow adult member of the group of the same sex. If you prefer to have a room of your own we can sometimes offer a single room for the entire trip or on selected nights within a trip. However a single room supplement applies, look on the Extensions & Extras tab on our website or ask our Travel Consultants for details.
The Adventure Company,Cross & Pillory House,Cross & Pillory Lane, Alton Hampshire, GU34 1HL