In between giants France and Spain is the tiny country of Andorra, sitting silently atop the Pyrenees Mountains as one of the oldest nations in Europe. A ruggedly scenic country, it is a land of narrow valleys and snow-covered mountainous terrain, which makes it an idyllic skiing, shopping, and tax haven (there are no income taxes here).
Andorra was originally established by the famed French King Charlemagne primarily to serve as a buffer state against the Iberian Muslims. For 715 years since 1278, control over the country was split between the French king and the Spanish Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell. This one-of-a-kind power arrangement endured until the end of the 20th century, when the government became a parliamentary democracy. Long been isolated from the outside world, Andorra has since reached significant prosperity through its burgeoning tourism industry.
The driving force behind the country's tourism is its skiing grounds. Andorra boasts of numerous major ski locations, the most famous being Grandvalira and Vall Nord, which cater to all kinds of skiers.
For non-skiing enthusiasts, the country is still a must-visit as it features plenty of opportunities for hiking, horse riding, golfing, dining and duty-free shopping. There is also the reputed Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley, Adorra's first, and to date, only UNESCO World Heritage Site. The “spiritual heart” of the land, it is an isolated glacial valley recognized as a haven for rare and endangered wildlife.
Andorran cuisine is characterized as Catalan, brought about by the influence of neighboring France and Spain, using elements from various cooking traditions and adding it to their traditional dishes. Attention to detail is the most important aspect of the Andorrans' food - using the right amount of spices for garnishing and coloring is very essential. Local delicacies are trinxat - a dish made of bacon, cabbage and potatoes; cunillo - a stew made of rabbit and tomato sauce; coques - a kind of flavored flat cakes; and truites de carreroles, which is actually just mushroom omelet.
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