The first thing I came across when I started researching ‘What to do in Andorra’ was the Caldea Spa. And as soon as I came across it I knew I had to go there.
I love a good spa. I haven’t been to many, but I’ve really enjoyed the few I have been to and at 6,000 square meters this is Europe’s largest. How could I resist?
Caldea Spa is set in a futuristic looking building in Escaldes-Engordany, one of the seven ‘parishes’ that make up Andorra and a short walk from the capital of Andorra la Vella. (If you don’t fancy walking, there’s a bus stop right outside.)
The building, which opened in 1994, was designed by architect Jean-Michel Ruols. Its glass pinnacle soaring to a height of 80m, taller than any other building in Andorra, made the spa easily identifiable as we drove into Andorra from France.
It’s a fabulous work of art and worth going to see even if you don’t get to go inside.
Here’s what the Caldea website has to say about it:
The renowned French architect Jean-Michel Ruols, known as the water architect, endowed the Caldea building with a unique and harmonious image that contains mineral and crystal references. Straight and vertical lines predominate, alongside dynamic shapes inspired by the mountainous environment of Andorra, which bring to mind activity and fun.
What it’s like to spend an afternoon in Caldea Spa, Andorra
We decided to visit on a Sunday afternoon. I went along earlier in the morning to buy tickets to ensure we got the time slot we wanted. A three hour time slot, which seems to be the standard, costs 38 euros, but we’d been given a half price voucher in one of the duty free shops the previous day. We’d tried to book online, which is a couple of euros cheaper than booking in person on the day, but were unable to find anywhere to enter details of the voucher on the website. When I asked about this, I was told the only way to book with a voucher is to take the voucher along and book in person. I wasn’t worried about missing out on the online discount as the voucher saved us each 19 euros.
I had to queue for a while to book and was advised to arrive early for our session in case there were big queues to get in. However when we arrived it was fairly quiet and we got straight in. As we left three hours later it was a different story. The queue was so long we couldn’t see the end of it. If that’s usual then I’d highly recommend going on a Sunday afternoon when it’s quieter.
Once changed we set off to explore and try out the many different pools, saunas, baths and things I don’t really know what to call.
The main pool is both inside and outside and you can swim, walk or float between the two sections. The water is harnessed from natural hot springs found in the surrounding mountains, but the temperature does differ a bit between the different pools and jacuzzis. The main indoor pool (or ‘lagoon’) for example is 32º.
The outdoor pool has water spouts and jacuzzi areas as well as a loop where you can either let the current pull you along or try to swim against it. I tried this as did a few other people, but none of us succeeded in getting very far. I’d love to see this pool in the winter when the area is surrounded with snow and the steam would be rising thickly.
Apart from the main indoor and outdoor ‘lagoon’, there are also the saunas, a Turkish-style hamam, Roman baths, showers that project onto your back and move up and down giving rather a strong massage, pools fed with ice, warm marble slabs to lie on and relax … are you getting the picture? There’s rather a lot to do here.
The Roman baths consist of a caldarium where you can soak in warm water (36º) before plunging into the frigidarium which is a shriek-inducing 14º. I didn’t plunge, but I did step gingerly into the water and actually managed to get in thigh deep before giving up and stumbling back out. (I was quite impressed with myself as usually I don’t get much past my ankles in cold water).
This site explains in more detail how to get the most from a visit to Caldea and what the benefits of the different treatments are.
We didn’t do anything properly. Wanting to try EVERYTHING and having so much choice, we rushed around sampling it all and then for the last half hour went back to our favourite bits. I also went back to the locker and got my phone just before we finished so I could take some photos. I hadn’t realised I could take it in with me, but you can even buy waterproof pouches for phones in the spa shop.
Another thing I wish I’d known was that the three hours doesn’t include getting showered and changed at the end. When we arrived we exchanged our tickets for a plastic card that we had to insert into the turnstiles to enter. This starts the clock ticking on your session and presumably only stops it ticking when you re-insert it to leave. I don’t know what happens if you overstay, but we didn’t want to risk being charged more so left right on the dot of our session. Then, chatting to the guy on the turnstiles we found out they allow up to 30 minutes extra for showering, drying your hair, etc at the end.
We had thought it would be nice to sit in the cafe with a drink before we left the complex. The cafe was quiet (only one table was occupied) and overlooked the spa. But the man behind the bar told us there was no menu or drinks list and that we could order a drink but we’d have to do so without knowing what it would cost. He was most unhelpful and actually quite bizarre (and my friend speaks French fluently so it wasn’t a language barrier). We decided to go elsewhere for a drink. Apart from this particular man everyone had been friendly and helpful so we weren’t going to let him spoil our experience.
I came out of Caldea feeling like I’d had a wonderful afternoon. This spa alone made the journey to Andorra worthwhile despite the long windy roads from France. Would I go again? You bet!
Tips for a visit to Caldea Spa, Andorra
- Book your tickets in advance and try to find out when it will be quiet. Booking in advance online will save a couple of euros but try to get a voucher from the duty free shops which could save you a lot more.
- Arrive early for your session in case there is a queue.
- Take a towel and toiletries. You can rent a towel, but it’s expensive. There is just basic liquid soap in the showers so you’re better off using your own shampoo, etc.
- The lockers aren’t very big so don’t bring more than you need. The plastic card that you use to get through the turnstiles is used to release the key from the locker.
- Swimsuits are compulsory.
- There is a water fountain outside the toilets which are near the sauna.
- You can take a camera or phone in with you, but make sure it is protected from the water. You can buy a waterproof pouch at the spa shop.
- You can stay in the spa for your full three hours – you’re allowed extra time at the end for showering and getting dressed.
What do you think? Do you like spas? Would you like to go to Andorra to visit Caldea? Share your thoughts in the comments below.