Canillo: Grandvalira Ski Area; Tax-Free Shopping -
The parish of Canillo is nestled in the top right corner of Andorra. Its rugged Pyrenean landscape is home to Andorra's biggest ski region - the Grandvalira Ski Area. The extensive area lies across the neighbouring parishes of Canillo and Encamp.
The town of Canillo (1500 metres) is the capital of the parish and is lined with old, pretty houses, traditional restaurants, and historic churches and chapels dating back to the 11th century.
The Caldea Spa, Europe's largest thermal spa, is located on a natural hot spring just a few kilometres from Canillo. Canillo
boasts an excellent selection of shops; tax-free shopping offers a popular break from the slopes.
In addition to Canillo's three runs (two blue, one black), a modern eight-seater cable car connects the town to the Grandvalira Ski Area (1710 to 2640 metres). Grandvalira, with its 193 kilometres of runs - 65 green, 89 blue, 85 red, and 47 black - is suitable for all levels of skier. The resort has seen many recent improvements. It was the biggest investor in skiing in the Pyrenees during the 1990s - including more snow canons, new lifts, and three snowparks parks popular with freestyle snowboarders.
ACG Snowpark Tarter has a halfpipe and large variety of different modules for intermediate and advanced boarders; Snowpark Pas is for beginners; and a freestyle circuit in Grau Roig for beginners. Young skiers are also well catered for with ski schools, four nurseries and five snow gardens.
The Grandvalira Lift Pass offers access to the resorts of Canillo, Encamp, Pas de la Casa/Grau Roig, and Soldeu el Tarter. It is just Canillo and Soldeu el Tarter that are within the parish of Canillo, the others lie in the parish of Encamp.
The modern, dynamic resort of Soldeu el Tarter (1710 metres) is the ski capital of Andorra. Its resort pistes mainly cater to beginners and intermediates, but expert and advanced skiers will find plenty to keep them amused heading over to the linked resort of Pas de la Casa and snowboarders can practise tricks at the snowpark with half-pipe. There are also some first-rate mogul slopes.
The village of Soldeu features a wide choice of accommodation, from apartments to four- and five-star hotels, and a lively après ski scene. There are plenty of bars and restaurants lining the main street. Restaurants here serve everything from traditional Andorran fare to a wide choice of international dishes. Late-night entertainment can be enjoyed in the couple of discos. The vibrant ski resort of Soldeu is often favoured to neighbouring Pas de la Casa as it is considerably less noisy.
The town of Canillo is just 12 kilometres from the capital, Andorra la Vella, which can be accessed by train from the two main airports: Toulouse - Blagnac in France (196 kilometres away) and Barcelona in Spain (202 kilometres away). Soldeu el Tarter is only accessibly by road; buses run to the resort from both airports and hire cars are available.