Arouca 516: Breathtaking Views over Arouca Geopark

Written By Mihaela Gutu

Arouca 516 is the second-longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the entire world. It stands at a height of 175 meters, directly above the Paiva River. The pedestrian suspension bridge is a must-see for those who enjoy adventure and adrenaline, as well as nature in a pristine form.

There are no buildings around, nothing that disrupts the serenity of nature. One noticeable manmade structure, however, is called Passadicos do Paiva (Paiva Walkways). These take you to the mountaintops that grant access to Arouca 516.

Without any further ado, let’s discover more about Arouca 516!

Some Details About Arouca

Arouca is a Portuguese municipality located in the Aveiro District (in the North Region of Portugal). Don’t worry, it’s not too far inland, as Arouca is still within the Metropolitan Area of Porto.

Certainly, the most interesting aspect about Arouca is the fact that the entirety of its territory is considered a geopark. The city is part of the official global and European geopark networks and is well known for its geological heritage.

This might also be the reason why Arouca 516 was built in the area. On the one hand, it favors educational projects/programs being deployed in the area. On the other hand, it heavily promotes geotourism. For example, according to Câmara Municipal de Arouca, the Paiva Walkways, since their opening in 2015, have been traveled by more than one million tourists.

The city of Arouca is riddled with history, especially Christian settlement influence. While you must discover it on your own, we should at least mention the village of Tebilhão. It stands on the terraced foothills of Arouca and makes for an impressive view over the valley and the hills that guard it.

Who Built Arouca 516?

There are two parties involved in the construction of Arouca 516 – ITeCons, a Portuguese research institution, and Conduril Engenharia, S.A. ITeCons designed Arouca 516, whereas Conduril Engenharia, S.A. built it. The approximate total costs for this impressive suspension bridge were north of 2 million Euros – 2.3 million, to be precise.

The construction of the Arouca 516 began in May 2018 and was finished two years later, in April 2021. Then, on the 2nd of May 2021, the suspension bridge was officially opened to the public.

As you may have already guessed, Arouca 516 is 516 meters long. It takes under ten minutes to cross it at normal walking speed, but trust us, it will take a bit longer!

It doesn’t matter if you’re scared of heights – if you want to take as many pictures as possible or suspend yourself at the moment for as long as you can, you will most likely spend more than just ten minutes on the impressive Arouca 516!

How to Get to Arouca 516?

Two ways can get you to the Arouca 516 suspension bridge. One starts in the parish of Canelas, and the other one in the parish of Alvarenga, both of the Arouca municipality.

The Canelas route takes up to one hour and involves experiencing the Passadicos do Paiva, which we strongly recommend. However, if you don’t feel like going up 500 stairs, the Alvarenga route is the ideal choice, as it takes only 20 minutes to complete.

  • Canelas Route – for this route, you can rely on your car until you reach the Areinho River. There, however, you must start traveling on foot – you’ll be roughly 1200 meters away from Arouca 516. Shortly after you start walking, you’ll have to access and then conquer the Passadicos do Paiva – 500 stairs, an 8-km-long route with an incredible view from each turning point (the stairs are not in a straight line), and almost one hour of somewhat intense exercise.
  • Alvarenga Route – the shorter route implies traveling to Albisqueiros, the place where you’ll also trade your wheels for a pair of comfortable shoes. Albisqueiros is 1000 meters away from Arouca 516. This route is straight and to the point – you’ll find a marked route that will take you to the entrance to the suspension bridge. If you’re fast enough, you’ll be there in less than 20 minutes.

Arouca 516 is great for impromptu visits, especially if you find yourself traveling through the region. The municipality of Arouca makes sure that you won’t have the chance to miss it by keeping the bridge open all year round, except for Christmas Day.

Arouca bridge. Photo by Bruno Alves (Unsplash)

What Can You See in Arouca, Possibly Even From the Suspension Bridge?

As mentioned above, Arouca is a fully-fledged geopark – every inch of this municipality’s territory holds significant geological importance. As such, it’s no surprise that there are 41 geosites to be witnessed in Arouca.

Some of the most impressive geosites are as follows:

  • The Detrelo da Malhada viewpoint – is constructed over metasedimentary rocks; it offers a panoramic view over the northern side of Freita Mountain and the valley, where Arouca is located.
  • São Pedro Velho – a granite dome overlooking the incredible natural gems of the region, including the Montemuro mountain range..
  • Frecha da Mizarela – the highest waterfall that you can find in mainland Portugal; it flows over 60 meters high; the location also offers an excellent view of the granite of Freita Mountain and the impressive green steep slopes surrounding the waterfall.
  • Pedras Parideiras – it showcases a geological phenomenon in which a type of mineral emerges from a mother rock, resembling nodules. The phenomenon known as Perdas Parideiras can be seen only in Portugal and Russia, in Saint Petersburg.
  • Castanheira Fold Field – a beautiful display of geological folds, a testament to the Earth’s long history.
  • The Paiva Gorge – an enchanting haven of nature, isolated in between hills where the Paiva River narrows; the bridge dates from the 18th century, from where the Aguieiras waterfall can be seen.

Out of the 41 geosites, we strongly recommend visiting the Castanheira Fold Field and the Frecha da Mizarela waterfall. Don’t forget to check out the Canelas Geological Interpretation Center as well. It features an impressive fossil collection, notably the largest trilobites in the world – gastropods, cephalopods, brachiopods, and many others.

What Is the Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in the World?

Arouca 516 once was the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. However, in May 2022, the Czech Republic opened Sky Bridge 721, a pedestrian suspension bridge located roughly 3 hours away from the country’s capital.

Sky Bridge is, as the name implies, 721 meters long and stands 95 meters above the ground.

It is worth mentioning that there has been some uncertainty and disputes regarding Arouca 516’s standing as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world even before the construction of Sky Bridge 721. Specifically, there’s a bridge in Nepal that was, at the time, considered the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, measuring 567 meters long.

In response to this, officials from Arouca affirmed that various details were taken into account when attributing this slogan (length, altitude, construction scope, and capacity). As such, they stand by the bridge’s attribution as the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world and consider it accurate.

Either way, don’t let these technicalities stand in your way! Arouca 516 is definitely worth a visit if you’re anywhere near Porto. You must not skip any of the 516 meters that make one of the most impressive pedestrian suspension bridges in the entire world! Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to return to Arouca someday, possibly during a different season, to enjoy nature at its best!

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