Wildlife & Nature
Itinerary & Map
We often have multiple itineraries so please check to see which itinerary is suitable for you, by selecting the relevant tab.
Arrive in Toulouse
After your flight to Toulouse, you join your transfer by chartered bus (approx. 3/4 hours drive) to your hotel in Andorra. Situated high on the south side of the Pyrenees, squashed in between France and Spain, the Principality of Andorra measures a mere 25 kilometres by 30 kilometres (that’s half the size of New York City!). The country’s independence can be traced right back to Charlemagne, who captured the region from the Muslims in 803 AD and gave it to the people. Although it gained independence from France and Spain in 1278, it was only in 1993 that the Andorran people voted to establish the country as a parliamentary democracy. Interestingly, the country had two princes as its joint heads of state – one being the President of France, the other being the Bishop of Urgell, although all parliamentary power lies with the Prime minister. The national language is Catalan, but French and Spanish - and increasingly, English - are widely spoken. Andorra is blessed with some of the finest scenery in the Pyrenees and is a great place for an active week in the mountains.
Your base for the week is the small town of Soldeu (1800m) which is located in the centre of this tiny, land-locked country.
Hotel Roc San Miguel or similar (AA) - 7 nights (B)
Today you head for the scenic Incles Valley - two minutes from the hotel - where your Group Leader will give a quick lesson on how to put on snowshoes. You then have time to get used to this new way of walking. It really isn’t difficult at all and, although you might feel a little ungainly at first, you’ll soon discover that you can climb even a fairly steep slope with ease. With snowshoes you can go almost anywhere - which means you can get to places that skiers cannot. You set off along a trail through the forest, marvelling at the peace and beauty of the snowy landscape. The group’s ability will dictate how far you go and you’ll can take provisions for a picnic in the forest.
You’ll also have an opportunity to learn the technique used to locate and rescue avalanche victims (ARVA). Using a receiver you locate the signal from a transponder that anyone venturing into avalanche territory would normally wear. Having located the source of the signal, you then search the snow using poles to locate the victim. It’s a bit like a sophisticated game of hide-and-seek, but it’s a fun way of learning a skill that could one day be a life-saver! (BD)
The forest of La Rabassa near the Spanish border is a chance to see a different area of Andorra, and is ideal for exploring and absorbing the stunning snow-clad landscape on cross-country skis. Longer, thinner and lighter than downhill skis, cross-country skis are designed more for practicality than speed. Only the toe of your boot is attached to a cross-country ski (unlike a downhill ski where the whole boot is rigidly attached), which makes for a very different style of skiing. Having the ability to flex the heel allows you to climb as well as descend, which means you can cross a greater variety of terrain. The pace is relaxed - you’ll start on an easy circuit to get used to this new mode of transport. (BD)
Igloo Building & Optional Snowmobiling
After breakfast you transfer to El Tarter ski station (1700m), a ten minute drive away, to learn an interesting new skill - how to build an igloo! All that’s required is a good supply of firm snow, a spade and a team of willing volunteers. Igloo building is great fun and kids will be thrilled to see how simple it is to make an icy shelter. Knowing how to create your own shelter in the mountains is a vital component of mountain survival.
In the afternoon, you have free time to choose what winter activity you would like to do (all at an additional charge). You could undergo a dramatic change of pace as you getting to grips with snowmobiling. A snowmobile (also known as a skidoo) is powered by a petrol engine that drives a single caterpillar track. Like a motorbike you steer using handlebars, these are connected to two parallel skis rather than a wheel. The brakes are on the handlebars, and you don’t have to worry about gears - there’s only forward and reverse. Large models with powerful engines can travel at over 100 kilometres per hour, but you’ll be using smaller models and taking things a lot more gently! Driver and a pillion passenger sit on a motorbike-style seat, but - for safety - smaller children may be towed behind on a sled. Snowmobiles are simple to drive, but it’s important to take care until you are used to the way they handle. You’ll then drive on a circuit through the forest for up to an hour.
Alternatively, you can choose to perfect your snowhoeing skills, head back to the slopes to go skiing or snowboarding, go ice skating or take advantage of Andorra's tax free shopping! (BD)
NB: You must be over 17 to drive a snowmobile. You will be required to sign an agreement stating that, in the event of any damage to the vehicle due to carelessness, you will cover the total cost of the damage.
This morning you can try out another age-old method of getting about in the snow - skiing (additional charge. Details of costs are listed in the optional activities section at the end of the trip notes). After heading up the Soldeu cable-car, you'll take a one hour lesson with a qualified instructor Once you've built up your confidence use your lift pass (included in the cost) to try your skills on the slopes in the Gran Valira ski area, one of the best skiing areas in Andorra. This is the highest and most extensive ski area in the Pyrenees encompassing the Soldeu-El Tarter and Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig ski resorts, so naturally there’s an excellent choice of slopes - from nursery to off-piste steep runs. Your ski instructor or Group Leader can advise which ones are most suitable for your level of ability. Beginners may well start off on the quieter slopes at Canarro allowing you more space in which to get to grips with your technique. If you are an experienced skier, you can ski on the intermediate slopes. (BD)
Today you’ll learn how to harness a team of dogs at the kennel and discover how a dog sled is handled. The dogs always get really excited as soon as they see the sleds coming out, and it’s often a struggle to hold them back, so the sleds have a snow anchor just for that purpose. Each sled can carry two people plus a driver (or musher) - pulled by a team of 4-6 huskies or 8 Alaskans. It takes a while to get everything ready but eventually you set off on a forest trail. You will feel the dogs tugging hard at their harnesses before they break into a smooth rhythm. All you can hear are the runners of the sled fizzing over the frozen snow and the odd bark or yelp from the dogs. Just hold on tight and enjoy the passing scenery for around an hour! It is normally possible for children from about 8 years old to drive their own sled.
To minimise the amount of time waiting around the group will normally be divided for this activity and whilst not sledding you can hit the slopes for some more skiing (additional charge). If you are an experienced skier, you can ski on the intermediate slopes but will have to pay a supplement locally. (BD)
Today you can choose from the many activities on offer in Andorra. You may wish to head back to the slopes for more downhill skiing (in which case you’ll need to purchase a lift pass), or simply relax. You could take a bus into the capital, Andorra La Vella for some retails therapy. Andorra has no taxes and is thus the ultimate place to go tax-free shopping. Most towns have a variety of shops, but Andorra La Vella has by far the best selection.
In Escaldes-Engordagny you can visit Caldea thermal baths. The facilities are impressive - on three levels under a huge glass dome, there are indoor and outdoor swimming pools, saunas, hot-tubs, jacuzzi, Turkish baths and even a grapefruit bath! A soak in the warm, mineral-laden thermal baths will help to ease away any aches and pains. Although not cheap, a general entry ticket allows you to pamper yourself for up to three hours. You can opt for one of the many additional treatments that include various styles of massage and hydrotherapy (at extra cost). The complex also has shops, restaurants, and a children’s centre. In Encamp you may like to visit the National Automobile Museum which houses an impressive collection of cars and bicycles – one of the largest in Europe. You could also take a ride in the state-of-the-art Funicamp gondola, which runs from Encamp up to the station at Collada d’Enradort (2506m) from where you could ski down to Grau Roig (for experienced skiers only). If you’re keen to try out a more active pursuit, you could go ice-skating in the Palau de Gel (ice stadium) in Canillo, or relax and watch some curling or ice-hockey. (BD)
Today, you transfer by bus (approx. 3/4 hours) to Toulouse where the trip ends. (B)