With an area of only 468 square kilometres (180 sq mi), set in three valleys, and surrounded by numerous peaks over 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) high, Andorra is the Country of the Pyrenees. With these geographical characteristics, Andorra is a paradise for outdoor sports and in particular for cycling.
In this Collection of road cycling routes, I offer four circular rides that cover the main Andorran mountain passes. They’re ordered from least to most difficult, but all of them are demanding and I only recommend them for fit, experienced cyclists.
Andorra's mountain passes have often been included in the Tour de France or the Vuelta a España, as well as being the setting for prestigious cycling rallies, such as La Purito, La 3 Nacions, or La Volta als Ports. The country has many different passes with good tarmac and a wide variety of services distributed throughout the different Andorran towns; what links these passes is their challenging nature. All are signposted indicating the distance covered and the average gradient of each kilometre of the climb.
Andorra is a small country with a varied offering of outdoor activities, well distributed among its valleys. For this reason, I’ve designed the rides so that each of them starts and finishes in a different town, all of them being less than 15 kilometres (9 mi) from Andorra La Vella, the capital.
The most common way to get to Andorra is by road, by car or bus. You can take the train from Spain to the town of Tor de Querol and from there take a bus or cycle to Andorra (depending on the route, it’s between 60 and 77 kilometres (37–48 mi)). Within Andorra, you can take the bus, although bicycles are not allowed on the regular lines, leaving you with the alternative of taking a taxi. Regardless of where you stay in Andorra, you can reach the starting point quickly by car or on your bicycle.
The climate in Andorra is Mediterranean high mountain climate, i.e. temperatures in winter are cold but not extreme. The average minimum temperature from November to February is 3°C, with a high of 11°C, and in summer, mild to moderate with average highs of 23°C from May to August. Because the roads are well maintained in winter, you can cycle almost all year round, although the best times are during the spring, summer and early autumn months. In any case, even in warm weather, it is advisable to bring a windbreaker and/or sleeves and a waterproof jacket in case of rain or if temperatures drop suddenly, which is common on summer evenings.
Road bikes are the most suitable for the routes in this Collection. You should carry at least a spare inner tube, pump, tyre levers and, for greater safety, a quick patch to repair a puncture. I also recommended having your bike tuned and checked, especially the brakes and tyres. If the ascents of the Andorran mountain passes are tough, the descents are vertiginous so, as well as being careful when riding, you should make sure that the brake pads are not worn and that the brakes are well adjusted. Good tyres are also very important, as a worn tyre is more prone to punctures, or worse, a blowout, which is best avoided in the middle of a descent.
If you're not travelling with your own bike, Andorra has a number of bike hire options, including electric bikes, which can be a great way to tackle the tough Andorran mountain passes.
Although there are several restaurants, shops and petrol stations in the various towns along the way, it’s wise to carry some food, such as energy bars and gels. Particularly in the warmer months, it’s essential to carry two water bottles with isotonic liquid in at least one.
In the description of each route of the Collection, there’s a detailed explanation of each route and its main climbs, as well as some possible variants in case it gets late or your strength weakens after a hard day on the bike.
This Collection brings together four wonderful days of cycling in the midst of beautiful mountain scenery, enjoying all the mythical great mountain passes of the Tour and La Vuelta. Have fun!
This Route takes you to visit two ski resorts, Arinsal and Pal, and one of the ports with the most spectacular views of Andorra, Port de Cabús. It is a relatively short itinerary, ideal for a good acclimatization to the altitude in Andorra, and with an accumulated positive slope that does not reach 2000…
With 77.5 kilometers and more than 2,300 meters of accumulated positive elevation gain and ascent to three ports, this Route increases the demand, visiting a long port such as Arcalís (18 kilometers), together with a short but hard port (Beixalís, of 8.7 kilometers), and ending with another long port…
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This Route has a long mountain pass to start the day, along the highest paved road in the Pyrenees, and two more passes that will reveal small Andorran valleys full of charm. With 77 kilometers and 2,450 meters of accumulated positive elevation gain, it does not represent a great leap in terms of hardness…
I have left the longest and hardest Route in the Collection for the last day, although the order to be followed is, of course, only indicative. Some cyclists may prefer to tackle it on the first day, or the second, after a first day of acclimatization. In any case, this circuit includes two climbs, to…
Road Cycling Collection by Café du Cycliste
Road Cycling Collection by Mark Beaumont
Bike Touring Collection by Bourg-d'Oisans
Hiking Collection by SimonWicart