Long isolated and impoverished, mountainous Andorra has achieved considerable prosperity since World War II through its tourist industry. Many immigrants (legal and illegal) are attracted to the thriving economy with its lack of income taxes. The Principality of Andorra is a state located in the heart of the Pyrenees between Spain and France. It has a surface area of 468 sq.km. and a population of 65,877 inhabitants.
The capital is Andorra la Vella. Andorra is divided into three valleys forming a Y-shape, holding the Northern and Eastern Valira rivers which join up to form the Great Valira and separated by mountain crests of a considerable height. The average altitude of the Principality is 1996 m. The highest point is the peak of Coma Pedrosa (2947 m) and the lowest is at the frontier with Spain (840 m).
It has the largest skiable area in the Pyrenees. Administratively Andorra is divided up into seven parishes: Canillo, Encamp, Ordino, La Massana, Andorra la Vella, Sant Julià de Lòria and Escaldes-Engordany. The Principality of Andorra can be accessed by road from France through Pas de la Casa and the Envalira Pass and from Spain via Sant Julià de Lòria.The nearest main cities are Barcelona (at 185 km) and Lleida (at 151 km) on the Spanish side and Toulouse (at 187 km) and Perpignan (at 169 km) on the French side.
The first appearance of the name of Andorra is found in the grant of 843 A.D. made by Charles the Bald to his faithful count Sunifred of Urgell of the valley of Andorra situated in the county of Urgell.Beginning in the 10th and 11th centuries, the dominion of the bishops of Urgell gradually extended over the valleys of Andorra and from the 12th century onwards these became an episcopal lordship.
A period of conflict and hostility between the bishops of Urgell and the counts of Foix over the sovereignty of Andorra began in the 13th century and was brought to an end by the signature of two successive agreements called Pariatges. The first Pariatge was signed in 1278 by bishop Pere d’Urtx of Urgell and Roger Bernat III, count of Foix and viscount of Castellbò.The second was signed ten years later, in 1288, also by Pere d’Urtx and Roger Bernat III. The Pariatges are among the basic documents in the history of Andorra because they established the undivided co-lordship between the bishop of Urgell and the count of Foix. They also fixed the taxes such as the quèstia to be paid by the Andorrans, organized the administration of justice by the batlles and appointed veguers and notaries. These institutions survive in reformed form in the Principality. The people of Andorra passed the first Andorran Constitution by a wide majority on 14 March 1993. This fixes the country as a parliamentary co-principality, an independent, democratic and social constitutional state.
Andorra la Vella is the capital of the Principality of Andorra, and is located high in the east Pyrenees between France and Spain, in the Gran Valira valley, on the eastern slopes of the Pic d’Enclar. Rugged mountains encircle the city. With an altitude of approximately 1,079 m (3,540 ft) Andorra la Vella is the highest capital city in Europe, and the only sizable community in the tiny country of Andorra.
The site of Andorra la Vella (literally, “Andorra the Old”) was already inhabitated before the Christian era. It has been as the principal city of Andorra since 1278 when the French and the Episcopal co-princes agreed to joint suzerainty. In 1993, the country’s first constitution established a parliamentary democracy with executive, legislative, and judicial branches located in Andorra la Vella.
It is a busy shopping centre, selling duty-free luxury goods imported from Europe and Asia to French and Spanish shoppers and to tourists. It is also developing offshore financial services. The legislative General Council of the Valleys meets in a 16th-century house called the Casa de la Vall (1580). The suburb of Escalades-Engordany has the 11th-century Romanesque church of Sant Miquel d’Engolasters, and the thermal baths of Caldea (opened in 1994).
Most of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics. The population is very diverse: Spanish 43%, Andorran 33%, Portuguese 11%, French 7%, other 6% (1998). Catalan is the official language, although Castilian and French are also spoken.
Today, Andorra la Vella receives approximately 6 million visitors a year. They are drawn by the principality’s duty-free shopping and the area’s excellent winter sports facilities, which offer access to some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain in the Pyrenees. The city’s growth as a tourism center has brought Andorra considerable prosperity, but also unsightly development and heavy automobile traffic that have diminished the city’s historic character. source by hotels-europe.com