Destination Andorra - A MTB Holiday Guide4 October 2013 | By AngusMcIntosh
Summer may be done but while your thinking of booking your next summer mountain bike holiday to sunnier climbs you might what to give Andorra a thought!
Largely known for a team of part-timers who get beaten by the rest of Europe at football or as a low tax country, little is known by most in the UK about the country of Andorra.
Nestling in the mountains between France and Spain, with a population of just 70,000 and an area the size of Dartmoor, the country may at first seem like it offers very little to the big mountain enthusiast or bike park ‘lapper’.
In reality the whole of Andorra is ‘big mountain’ - consisting of three steep sided huge valleys overlooked by soaring peaks up to nearly 10,000 feet in places. Certainly there is the gravity and most in the downhill world will know of the reputation for steep challenging tracks from this year’s World Cup.
What is actually on offer for mountain bikers is at least as diverse as the usual corrugated bike parks of the French Alps. Andorra has two large bike parks; the first being the better known Vallnord. This park has a really diverse mix of trails from fun blues to steep technical black runs. Beware however as often the blues have features that would be classed as black in the UK and thus riding trails without scoping runs is ill-advised. The World Cup track is open for riding at Vallnord but there is much more to savour than this. End of run beers and evening shenanigans can be best had at the Sports Bar opposite the end of the World Cup track.
Half an hour from Vallnord is Soldeu bike park which traditionally has been less dusty and rocky but this year (due to late snowfall) had a similar feel. Up top, Soldeu feels more like the open fast world of the Port Du Soleil but combines this with a lower section which is more wooded and full of features.
Both parks have excellent lift services, have zero queuing and offer great environments for riding. Soldeu also offers the highest golf course in Europe and a driving range that for a few euros allows you to knock balls off the side of a mountain into clean air!
Standout features of both parks were the pleasant staff, the amazing maintenance teams (you’ll struggle to find braking bumps), the cheap food (6 Euro for a burger, fries and a beer!) and the variety of riding on offer. Lift passes are reasonable and you can even buy a pass with lunch included! The thing that impressed us most however was the connection trails between the lifts. In other parks these are largely after-thoughts or simply gravel roads but in both these parks, the connection trails are as good (and sometimes better) than the actual trails. A huge variety of North Shore can be found nestling in the woods for the more extreme riders.
Outside of the parks, Andorra is littered with challenging technical singletrack which will test any rider. Our particular favourite was ‘Locals Only’ which was worth the push up purely for the all out ‘speeder bike’ run through the woods back to town. Electrically fast and fun, this was in contrast to tracks such as Roquefort which required 100% attention and commitment. Trails are being found and developed all the time so the options will continue to grow.
If that wasn’t enough to draw you into the valleys from France, Andorra delivers in all other areas. The hotels are cheap and the three star we stayed in was by far the best place for the price we have been to - with secure bike storage, great staff and a peaceful air as well as a cheap bar and a massive breakfast (think all you can eat Pain au Chocolat, Croissant, Bacon, Eggs and Juice). On top of this Andorra as a whole has a very relaxed and friendly feel, food is cheap, there is great duty free shopping and even the transfer from Barcelona is picturesque.
So you have to ask yourself ‘whats stopping me booking for next year’. As my old man always says ‘if something seems too good to be true, it probably is’ but Andorra may just be the exception to the rule.
Singletracksafari.com run a variety of packages from the ‘gravity enduro’ week we experienced to the Morzine killer ‘bike park week’ where your money gets you a four star hotel, breakfast, lift pass and transfer all for the price of the cheapest self-catering experience in the Port Du Soleil.
So if you are on a budget but wanting great accommodation, much more stable weather, a great variety of riding, the ability to progress on challenging tracks, two well maintained bike parks, a host of natural trails in a stunning setting with a cool atmosphere then you might just want to check out what’s on offer. We already know we are going back next year!
Put simply, Andorra are whipping the old boys of Europe when it comes to mountain biking destinations and are dead serious about keeping on raising the bar.
Check out our short film below for a flavour of what is on offer.
For more detail of our gravity enduro week, check out our trail diary and photos.
For details of packages on offer, visit singletracksafari.com