Last updated on January 17th, 2024
We have just returned home to Tenerife after our unforgettable journey to the Pyrenees mountains and I had to take a moment to sit down and write a post about our trip from Barcelona to Andorra by car where we had a little adventure that I didn’t expect would be so memorable.
It was a long-awaited vacation which I packed with many activities for each day and since we had a car with us we wanted to road trip and see as much as possible which was quite easy to do as the mountains itself, Andorra, and the entire stretch of the drive between Barcelona and Andorra were quite spectacular.
If you are interested in seeing (and getting inspired) what our trip through the Pyrenees mountains was like, you can do this through my other posts. But here, in this article, I solely want to talk about our road trip between Andorra and Barcelona.
Many people cover this distance by bus or even by car taking the highway (and partially toll road) C16/N-260, not considering another route B23/C55/C14 which in total is 20 km longer than C16/N-260 but in my experience more interesting.
We decided to choose it to drive from Barcelona to Andorra and made many stops along the way. I am sharing them below and you pick which ones you like more to tailor your own road trip adventure between these two awesome destinations!
You can also use it as an Andorra to Barcelona by car itinerary but in that case, you will need to readjust the driving schedule as some points of interest that are closer to Barcelona close early.
In the end of the article, I also include a map but only with major points of interest. Keep in mind that there are other sites that are not on this map but under each section in detail.
Things to Consider Before Going on Barcelona to Andorra Drive
Mark and I started this road trip from Barcelona airport which helped us save some time on getting out of the city. I advise you to do the same for convenience. If you plan to be in Barcelona, at first spend time in the city (without renting a car) and then go in the morning/afternoon (of that day when you plan to drive to Andorra) to the airport to pick up a rental car.
The distance between Andorra and Barcelona via B23/C55/C14 roads is around 210 km (130 miles) but there is no way you can cover all the stops in this post in one day. Drive on its own is easy and will take you around 3-3.5 hours without detours.
But if you want to visit some hidden gems along the route and actually see more of Spain, you need to have at least one full day (preferably during the season with more sunlight in the day).
It took us 2 full days to cover everything and have an overnight stop on the way (I mention it below) but we devoted 2 weeks to the Pyrenees region, which allowed us to move slowly.
If you are on a shorter trip, obviously driving such a short distance during 2 days may be too much. So again, just pick the most interesting places from this list and have your own adventure.
NOTE: If you are thinking of going on a Barcelona to Andorra day trip, I do not recommend you make stops on the way at all. Because Andorra is a jewel of its own which deserves at least 3 full days. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend going on a day trip to Andorra from Barcelona at all because this country has too much one day can fit in.
If you do want to see Andorra and a few sights on the Spanish side, then I recommend you devote 2 days to this trip. Go on Barcelona to Andorra drive using this post, then spend a night in Andorra la Vella (capital city), devote the following day to Andorra country (with a car you can drive all over it within the short period of time) and leave to Barcelona late at night (via toll road).
For the car hire, from my experience, I can recommend you rent a car from Centauro company. They have not only reasonable prices for car rental but also the lowest price for border crossing.
Every car rental company in Barcelona charges money for a border crossing to Andorra (and France including), so with Centauro you save. Plus, the company is more relaxed in terms of car damages. While other companies try to charge for even the smallest scratch, Centauro has a more forgiving policy. But if you purchase full insurance, then of course it doesn’t matter.
If you do want to rent a car in Barcelona with insurance, do so from DiscoverCars as their policies are the cheapest.
Where to Stop for the Night Between Barcelona and Andorra
Technically speaking – you can drive one full day to Andorra and see quite a lot from this list. But realistically speaking – get ready that you won’t be able to stop everywhere. There are just too many activities for one day.
So if you want to take it slower as we did and experience cozy stays in the Spanish Pyrenees while driving to Andorra, I can recommend the following places including one nice hotel on a budget in Andorra. Here they are and here is why they are my top picks:
- Bremon Boutique Hotel (heritage hotel with the view of the castle, the one I discuss below)
- Parador de Cardona (stay in a castle itself, haunted rooms are available for rent as well, ha!)
- Hotel Restaurant Cal Petit (hotel between the hills in a relaxing setting for those who plan to sightsee a lot)
- Yomo Mola Park (my top choice hotel in Andorra la Vella, best for those who want to visit the Thermal Center)
Barcelona to Andorra Road Trip & Best Stops to Make
La Colonia Güell
Colonia Güell is a lesser-known place near Barcelona with one of the beautiful and unique works of Antoni Gaudi.
It is basically an industrial village of textile workers (back in the day) of the magnate Eusebi Güell who was a patron and one of Gaudi’s customers. He commissioned the renowned architect to design various elements of the complex but only one was finished which was the Crypt (a small church).
It was originally intended to be the lower part of a larger church structure, but due to financial constraints, only the Crypt portion was completed and until this day serves as a standalone structure often visited for its architectural significance and artistic beauty.
Despite its incomplete state, the Crypt nowadays is considered a masterpiece of modernist architecture and a significant precursor to Gaudí’s more famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
This is a very interesting place to visit if you want to see more works of Antoni Gaudi. And it will be to particular interest to those who are visiting Barcelona (and Spain) for the first time without the ability to spend much time in Barcelona city.
There is a small entrance fee to enter but with it you can also explore different areas of the village, gaining insights into its industrial history and architectural significance.
Montserrat Mountain Range With the Benedictine Abbey
The next stop I suggest you make when on a drive from Barcelona to Andorra is a place of pilgrimage and religious devotion Montserrat Abbey (of course if you haven’t visited it yet). This Abbey lies on the route to Andorra (which is easy to detour to) and is one of the most significant places in entire Spain.
The area where the Abbey is situated is stunning. Montserrat mountain range has unique geological formations characterized by striking pink conglomerate rocks and in the middle of those formations on the mountain the Abbey sits. The rocks form a dramatic backdrop to the architectural elements of the complex which is so breathtaking once you look.
Besides the scenery, Montserrat Abbey has a rich cultural history and is known for the Black Madonna, a revered statue of the Virgin Mary and the Infant Jesus. It holds deep religious and cultural significance, is considered a symbol of Catalan identity, and is associated with legends of miracles. Many pilgrims visit Montserrat Abbey to honor and seek blessings from this iconic statue.
There is also the abbey complex, including the basilica and museum, which provide insights into the region’s history and architecture.
It is easy to spend the whole day in this complex as there are lots of opportunities for photography and cultural exploration.
One of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe performs daily in the basilica, so if you come at a specific time, you’ll be able to hear them sing. Not to mention multiple hiking trails, culinary delights (there are a few restaurants with Catalan cuisine and mountain views), and just a beautiful large territory where to relax.
Manresa Ancient City
The ancient town of Manresa has been known long before the birth of Christ and is an interesting city to visit these days. Many people come here on a day trip from Barcelona but spending a few hours on a road trip to Andorra is a better option since you drive right through it.
The first thing Manresa is famous for is its religious significance because it is tied to the cave where the founder of the Jesuit order Saint Ignatius of Loyola spent time in prayer and contemplation. During the Roman Empire in the 16th century, he stopped there to pray on his way from the Montserrat monastery to Jerusalem, Since then, the city has become a center of Catholic pilgrimage.
If you have an interest in religious history or want to visit sites associated with saints, then you’ll enjoy a stop in the ‘Cave of Saint Ignatius’ (see photos and location here) near the Pont Vell aqueduct which opens up scenic views of the town in some way similar to the view from famous aqueduct in Cordoba.
You will also notice the Basilica of Saint Ignatius Loyola (built on a hill) which features religious art and architecture that reflect the devotion to Saint Ignatius and the Jesuit order.
Among other places to check out are the Historic Old Town with the Town Hall and narrow cobbled streets, Cardener River Walk with riverside paths and green spaces along the riverbanks great for a quick walk. There are also a few vista points in Manresa since the town is surrounded by hills and elevated areas that offer panoramic views of its surroundings.
Another thing that made Manresa famous in the last century was its many vineyards and wonderful wine. If you like wine tourism, I recommend you book a tour at Oller del Mas family-owned vineyard which includes wine tasting and an overview of the wine cellars. They also have a restaurant here with Catalan dishes.
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Additionally, there is an adjacent retreat Les Cabanes de l’Oller del Mas which is a gorgeous luxurious property. It probably doesn’t make much sense to stay there just for the night on a quick road trip from Barcelona as the price is high due to the number and quality of amenities and stellar experience.
If I could sum it up, I’d say that Manresa is a hidden gem in close proximity to Barcelona. If you can’t stop here on a drive to Andorra, possibly come here on a Barcelona day trip.
Sant Benet de Bages Monastery
Sant Benet de Bages is a Benedictine monastery near Manresa situated in a landscape characterized by rolling hills and gentle slopes, with the Montserrat mountain range lying to the southeast.
You may think that it is better to skip this place if you visit Montserrat but don’t be in a hurry.
Sant Benet de Bages is a very different type of religious site. It is the thousand-year-old monastery which is not only one of the most precious pearls of Catalan architecture, but also provides a museum route through its internal buildings – churches, monastery, wine cellar, and personal quarters of the artist Ramon Casas who lived and worked within these walls.
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Over the years, this complex has evolved into a living cultural center with a commitment to local gastronomy, exemplified by ‘La Fonda‘, its renowned Catalan cuisine restaurant.
You can also take part in the family master classes of the Alicia Foundation, whose headquarters are located here. This project, created on the initiative of chef Ferran Adria and cardiologist Valenti Fuster, aims to do research in the field of gastronomy.
Cardona Salt Town & Its Haunted Castle
The next place that came as a big surprise on this road trip from Barcelona to Andorra was Cardona, a small salt mine town where salt has played a crucial role in its history.
There are only five thousand people living in Cardona but two (!) wonderful objects at once – one of the best castles in Europe and the Salt Mountain with an unusual attraction.
This castle (called Castell de Cardona) is included in the top ten castles in Europe. Built in the 9th century (in the year 886) and sitting on a hill 585 meters high, it was a stronghold for ruling families, later on, a strategic military center, and even a monastery at some point. All of this left a significant trace on its history, making some people believe that there are ghosts in this castle.
In fact, Cardona Castle now houses a hotel that has a haunted room and where you can stay if you’ve got the courage. This is the reason why I included the Parador Hotel on the list of the best places to stay on Barcelona to Andorra drive. You can see photos and hotel’s overview to get an idea of what it is like.
Even if you don’t plan to stay overnight, come to Parador for drinks and light food, and just to walk around. Views and vibe are spectacular and you’ll be able to feel the spirit of that time and enjoy the silence of the old city in solitude.
And of course don’t miss the second main attraction of the town – Salt Mountain. It is a unique geological phenomenon that has long been a constant source of wealth for the city.
Being more than 160 m high it offers big collections of ancient equipment and salt sculptures, as well as amazing grottoes with lagoons, where stalactites and stalagmites of transparent white, yellow and red colors create a magical space of fantastic dreams.
I also liked the Museum of Salt which does a good job telling the story of Cardona salt mines.
Solsona – Catalonia’s Ancient Medieval Town
A short drive away from Cardona brings you to another ancient town of Catalonia – Solsona famous for its medieval layout (meaning that all characteristics were developed from the 5th to the 15th century) and significant examples of Baroque architecture which was built later.
The main reason to come to Solsona is to see the mix of these architectural styles that have been preserved very well. It is especially pleasant to look at the medieval churches and mansions of wealthy townspeople during siesta, when, according to the good old Spanish tradition, life in the city calms down and you can walk almost completely alone through historical places.
It is especially worth visiting Cathedral of Santa Maria from the 12th century with a statue of the Blessed Virgin made of black stone, Diocesan Museum (which focuses on the heritage of the local diocese and includes items related to the Catholic Church’s history in the region), 15th-century fountain in St. John’s Square, and Llobera Palace.
We visited Salsona in the evening on a rainy fall day when the mist created a special atmosphere. If you also come during the colder season, you will simply enjoy walking the streets and taking photos.
Also, one thing to add – Solsona is famous for its culinary traditions. So if you arrive hungry, try Catalan cuisine with a colorful regional accent in any restaurant in the town. We liked La Tasqueta de la Nuria with fine local dishes at reasonable prices and views of the old town if you sit outside.
And then if you happen to go from Barcelona to Andorra by car in September, there is a chance to see the city’s main festival, the Fiesta Mayor de Solsona. Visiting in February also provides a unique opportunity to witness an equally spectacular show – the Solsona Giants carnival, with a procession of mummered giant figures.
Panta d’Oliana Reservoir
This reservoir is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, offering views of the vividly seen Pyrenees mountains and the water’s expanse. It is a nice place where to stop briefly just to enjoy the scenic natural beauty of the local area.
The main thing here is not to enter tunnels but to take detour roads to drive by the reservoir. Once on the C-14 highway, you will see multiple tunnels that lead through the mountains. But before reaching them, there are side roads that go beneath the mountain with a tunnel and open up some views of the reservoir.
And the only way to drive on them is from the right side of the road when you drive to Andorra. There is no such an opportunity when you drive in the opposite direction from Andorra to Barcelona.
In summer, if you feel like taking it very slowly, one kayak company rents out kayaks out there, so you can slow down by having a kayaking exercise. I know there are even guided tours on offer for both adults and kids.
If you are interested, get in touch with them in advance to book a tour or inquire about the kayak for rent.
Organyà – Countryside Town
Organya town differs from the places mentioned earlier, such as Cardona and Solsona, and more so Manresa but is worth a quick stop before you continue to drive to Andorra.
It is a smaller town known for its tranquil setting in the typical Catalan countryside (with terraced landscapes and stone farmhouses that are a reflection of the region’s architectural heritage and are sometimes used for agritourism), surrounded by mountains. And mountains here are already very close to the town walls.
While Organya does not have the historical and cultural prominence of larger towns like Solsona or the religious significance of Montserrat, it is lovely to walk through the old town to see a different style of architecture and already different scenic landscapes.
I would spend here between 30-60 minutes to get a different feel (compared to places you saw prior) and continue the journey.
La Seu d’Urgell
This was our last stop before entering Andorra which we made late at night to eat (our food that we purchased earlier in Mercadona). The atmosphere felt so spooky due to the fog, medieval architecture, and no people on the streets.
Only later I learned that La Se d’Urgell is an ancient city, a gateway to the Pyrenees mountains and Andorra, with a beautiful old town with plenty of shopping, restaurants, and old historic monuments.
Since it was already dark when we arrived, we went straight to the Cathedral of Santa Maria – the town’s highlight, to enjoy our snacks. And this cathedral looked impressive. I wouldn’t call the cathedral massive but it is magnificent. It still overwhelms from above with its historical age and might.
Taking a stroll through the old town was also worth it, but if you are at the end of your road trip and tired, then it is probably okay to make this stop rather short.
Just pay tribute to the Cathedral of Santa Maria, Castell de la Seu d’Urgell, and Plaça d’Orient (the main square with cute little cafes and medieval buildings). And after this quick visit move on to the mountains of Andorra.
NOTE: La Seu d’Urgell is also your last town on the Spanish side where to shop for groceries. If you are entering Andorra and then going to France and feeling like picking up some Spanish food items that you liked, it is better to do grocery shopping in this town. There is a big Mercadona with good hot food items on sale too.
Map of All Places on Barcelona to Andorra Drive
More Scenic Road Trips in Spain
Going on a road trip in Spain is one of my favorite things to do! I am constantly adding more of them to the blog but here are some of my favorite drives:
- Barcelona to Valencia By Car – best stops to make on this road trip
- Valencia to Malaga Road Trip – all cool places to visit & things to do
- Best Places to Visit in Malaga by Car – when you want to see more of the region
- Driving in Northern Spain – what it’s like
- Coastal Towns in North Spain – most beautiful towns to visit on a road trip
- Road Trips From Madrid – cool drives from the capital city to see Central Spain
- Best Road Trips in Tenerife – four scenic routes not to miss
- Driving in Gran Canaria – what it’s like & best road trips to take
- Guia to Las Palmas Drive – most scenic road trip in Gran Canaria
More Posts for Travel in Spain
- What to Wear in Spain – things to pack in any season
- Long Weekend in Malaga – how to make the most of this time there
- Malaga Hidden Gems – secret locations and beautiful spots for your Andalusia trip
- Is Madrid Worth Visiting? – when it is and when it’s not
- Madrid in Winter – best things to do & travel tips
- Valencia in Winter – weather, Christmas & things to do
- Visiting Spain in Winter – things no one tells you about