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Andorra: Flag and Anthem

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Andorra, country in southwestern Europe, located high in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains between France to the north
and Spain to the south. Andorra is one of the smallest nations in the world, with an area of 468 sq km (181 sq mi) and
a population (2007 estimate) of 71,822. The capital and largest city is Andorra la Vella (population, 2004 estimate,

Andorra is a rugged land marked by deep gorges, narrow valleys, and towering mountains. The lowest part of Andorra
stands about 914 m (3,000 ft) above sea level. Due to its alpine location, winters are cold, and heavy snowfall
frequently blocks the mountain passes, especially the road linking Andorra to France. Summers are cool, dry, and

Andorran Village
The tiny mountainous principality of Andorra draws tourists to the Pyrenees year-round for sightseeing, skiing, and duty-free
shopping. Although tourism is the nation's main source of revenue, some villagers retain a pastoral way of life, moving with cattle and
sheep to high mountain pastures in summer.
Everett C. Johnson/Leo de Wys, Inc.
Isolated for centuries, Andorra had become a popular tourist destination by the 1950s. Although tiny, Andorra offers
some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the Pyrenees. Great hiking, mountain biking, and stunning alpine scenery
attract visitors in summer. But most of the visitors to Andorra are day travelers from France or Spain, who take
advantage of Andorra’s duty-free shopping. Merchants selling electronic goods, alcohol, tobacco, and luxury items
crowd the streets of Andorra la Vella and other nearby towns.

Tourism is Andorra’s main source of revenue, but some Andorrans still raise sheep and cattle as they have since
ancient times. In the summer months, villagers herd livestock up the mountains to graze in alpine pastures. Most of
the small patches of land suitable for cultivation are used to grow tobacco.

For more than 700 years Andorra was ruled jointly by the leader of France and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgel in
northwestern Spain. These leaders, known as the “princes of Andorra,” served as overlords of Andorra. The country
formally remains a co-principality (jointly ruled by princes) to the present day. In 1993 Andorrans adopted their first
constitution, which established the country as an independent democratic co-principality. Today, the president of
France and the Bishop of Urgel remain Andorra’s heads of state, but their roles are largely ceremonial.


Geography of Andorra

Area 468 sq km
181 sq mi
Coastline 0 km
0 mi
Highest Pic de Coma Pedrosa
point 2,946 m/9,665 ft

Andorra occupies a region of gorges and valleys in the eastern Pyrenees. The country is almost completely encircled
by high mountains. The Coma Pedrosa, which rises to 2,946 m (9,965 ft), is Andorra’s highest peak.

Andorran Landscape
Andorra is a region of deep gorges, narrow valleys, and towering mountain peaks. Andorra is located in the eastern Pyrenees, nestled
on the border between France to the north and Spain to the south.
Andorra Tourist Office

Over the centuries, settlers have cleared much of Andorra’s original alpine forest cover, including birch, pine, and fir,
creating pastures in valleys and on the slopes. Overgrazing by livestock has caused soil erosion in some mountain

Andorra is drained by the Valira River. Many streams meet to form the Valira, which flows south into Spain. Waterpower
is one of Andorra’s few significant natural resources, and it permits the country to produce nearly half of its electricity
needs. Andorra has small deposits of iron and lead, but they have not been mined extensively because of the high
costs of transportation. Some marble is also quarried.

People of Andorra

Population 71,822 (2007 estimate)

Population density 159 persons per sq km
413 persons per sq mi (2007 estimate)
Urban population 90 percent (2003 estimate)
Rural population distribution 10 percent (2003 estimate)
Largest city, with population Andorra la Vella, 22,035 (2004 estimate)
Official language Catalan
Chief religious affiliations Roman Catholic, 89 percent
Nonreligious, 5 percent
Other, 6 percent
Life expectancy 83.5 years (2007 estimate)
Infant mortality rate 4 deaths per 1,000 live births (2007 estimate)
Literacy rate Not available

The citizens of Andorra account for only about one-fourth of the entire population. French and Spanish immigrants,
allowed residence in Andorra under a strict quota system, make up the majority of the remaining population. Most
native Andorrans trace their ancestry to Catalonia.
Andorra la Vella
In the years since World War II (1939-1945), once-isolated Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra, has grown with a booming tourist
industry. Retail shops selling duty-free goods crowd Andorra la Vella’s commercial center.
José Fuste Raga/age fotostock

Andorra’s official language is Catalan, which is spoken by about 30 percent of the population as a first language.
Spanish is spoken by more than half the population, and a small percentage of residents speak French as a mother
tongue. Few Andorrans speak English. Roman Catholicism, the religion of 89 percent of Andorrans, exerts a strong
influence on social and cultural life.

Most of the people of Andorra live in seven small towns. The capital and largest town is Andorra la Vella, with a
population of 22,035. Located on the Valira River in west central Andorra, the town is a center for the retail trade in
duty-free goods. Other sizable towns include Escaldes-Engordany, Encamp, Saint Julià de Lòria, and La Massana. The
overall population density of Andorra is 159 persons per sq km (413 per sq mi).

Economy of Andorra

Gross domestic product (GDP in U.S.$) Not available

GDP per capita (U.S.$) Not available
Monetary unit European Union (EU) single currency, the euro (€).
Number of workers Not available
Unemployment rate Not available

Before World War II, Andorra’s economy was based largely on farming and the processing of tobacco and timber (see
Forestry). Tourism has boomed since the 1950s and now dominates the principality’s economic life. Andorra receives
more than 3 million tourists and more than 8 million excursionists (day trippers) every year. Visitors are drawn by the
excellent facilities for winter sports, the sunny alpine climate, the old churches and quaint towns, and the availability
of a wide assortment of duty-free goods. Andorra also collects revenues on the sales of its distinctive postage stamps,
which are purchased by tourists and collectors.

Tobacco Plantation in Andorra

Andorra's economy was formerly based on timber, pastoral farming, and the processing of tobacco, which grows in abundance here.
Since the 1950s, however, tourism has steadily gained importance, and it now dominates the economy.
Francesc Muntada/Corbis

Financial services emerged as an important facet of Andorra’s economy in the 1990s, aided by strict banking secrecy
laws and low business taxes. In 2002 Andorra refused to sign an Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) agreement on tax evasion that would have compelled the country to share information about
potential tax evasion and make transparent its own banking arrangements.
Skiing in the Pyrenees
Tucked away in the Pyrenees, with no airports or railway system of its own, tiny Andorra is accessible only by roads leading from
neighboring France to the north and Spain to the south. Despite this-and a total land area of 468 sq km (181 sq mi)-the country is
visited by an estimated 12 million tourists annually. Andorra's skiing industry is based on five major resorts-Pas de la Casa, Arinsal,
Arcalis, Pal, and Soldeu.
P. Wysocki/Explorer/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Because only about 4 percent of Andorra’s land is suitable for cultivation, most food is imported. Nevertheless, farming
—especially sheep and cattle grazing and the growing of tobacco—remains a visible feature of Andorran life and
culture. Andorra manufactures cigarettes and cigars, and timber harvested from Andorra’s slopes is used to produce
furniture. In 2004, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Andorra’s
Madriu-Perafita-Claror Valley as a World Heritage Site (see World Heritage Committee) for its living tradition of
mountain pastoral farming and culture.

Although Andorra is not a member of the European Union (EU), in 1990 it signed a customs union with the EU that
regulates the duty-free allowances permitted visitors to the country. In 2002 Andorra adopted the EU’s common
currency, the euro. Previously, Andorra had used the Spanish peseta and the French franc, both of which were also
replaced by the euro.

Andorra has no railroad or airport but possesses an excellent road system. Even so, heavy traffic frequently clogs the
streets of Andorra’s towns. Public television and radio broadcasting services are provided by Andorra Televisió and
Radio Nacional d’Andorra. Andorrans also have access to broadcasts from France and Spain. There are two major daily
newspapers, el Periodicó and Diari d’Andorra.


For 715 years Andorra was ruled jointly by Spanish and French co-princes—respectively the Bishop of Urgel and, in
modern times, the president of France. Under this arrangement, which granted Andorra a limited form of autonomy,
responsibility for domestic affairs was delegated to an elected general counsel (Consell General de las Valls). Judicial
matters, foreign affairs, and defense remained under the control of the co-princes.

In March 1993 Andorrans voted to end this semifeudal system (see Feudalism) in a referendum establishing Andorra as
an independent democracy. Under the constitution approved by the referendum, Andorra’s first-ever executive,
judicial, and legislative bodies were set up. The Andorran legislature is the General Council. The council’s 28 members
are popularly elected to four-year terms. The executive organ of government is the Executive Council, which is headed
by a president (prime minister) who is elected by the General Council and formally appointed by the co-princes. The
president appoints the other members of the Executive Council.

Andorra’s constitution permits it to pursue its own foreign relations and to join international organizations of its own
choosing. In 1993 Andorra was admitted to the United Nations (UN), and it joined the Council of Europe in 1994. The
co-princes formally remain Andorra’s heads of state but retain little real authority; they hold veto power only over
legislation affecting Andorra’s borders or security. France and Spain share responsibility for Andorra’s defense.


Andorra has been an independent principality since the early Middle Ages. It is the last surviving remnant of the March
States, or buffers states, created by Charlemagne in the early 900s AD to prevent Muslims in Spain from advancing
north into Christian France. According to Andorran tradition, Charlemagne granted autonomy to Andorrans as a reward
for fighting against the Muslims.

For many years, the right to rule Andorra was disputed by the Count of Foix of France and the Bishop of Urgel of Spain.
The dispute was resolved in 1278 when the count and bishop were made joint overlords, or co-princes, of Andorra. The
count’s rights later passed to the French crown and later to the president of France. To this day, Andorra pays an
annual token tribute, called the questia, alternately to the president of France and to the Bishop of Urgel.

Andorra remained neutral in both World War I and World War II. The principality gained a reputation as a smuggling
center during the Spanish Civil War, when French goods passed through Andorra to Spain, and during World War II,
when Spanish goods passed through Andorra to France.

In 1970, women were granted the right to vote. In 1991, representatives of the president of France and the Bishop of
Urgel agreed to recognize Andorra’s sovereignty and to permit the principality to draft a constitution. Despite some
opposition from traditionalists, a referendum in March 1993 approved a new constitution, which came into force on
May 4, 1993. The first general election under the new constitution took place in December 1993, and Oscar Ribas Reig
was elected president (prime minister) of the Executive Council. Reig resigned in November 1994 and was replaced by
Marc Forné Molné. In elections in February 1997 and March 2001 Molné’s government was overwhelmingly reelected.

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