The steel, adrenaline-inducing 516 Arouca bridge in Portugal's Aveiro district is touted as the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge. The bridge with a grilled walkway is 516 meters long and is perched 175 meters atop the opposite banks of the wild and fast-flowing currents, of River Paiva. A ten-minute walk across the 516 Arouca bridge allows tourists to enjoy the lush and picturesque rocky views of Garganta do Paiva and Cascata das Aguieiras Geocities. The two Geocities are part of UNESCO recognized Arouca Geopark, a geological marvel in Northern Portugal. At any single time, only 30 people can walk on the bridge.

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The basic architecture of the 516 Arouca Bridge

The 516 Arouca Bridge is a suspended engineering marvel to behold built to withstand strong winds. On either end are two giant and sturdy V-shaped concrete towers. On top of the towers are two steel anchor cables that cross over the River Paiva gorge. Fastened on the two anchor cables are multiple cables running end to end that suspend the grilled walkway. The walkway also has bars that hold the side grills in place. On the walkway's floor are two underside bars running parallel to the top two anchor cables. Those two bars hold the grilled floor walkway in place. After every several meters are U-shaped bars that strengthen the walkway.

The floor and side grills allow tourists to observe the magnificent rocky, hilly, and lush River Paiva gorge and sky blue skyline, from an elevated position.

A brief history of the 516 Arouca Bridge

The Municipality of Arouca manages the 516 Arouca Bridge. The bridge's design was inspired by Inca bridges that traversed the Andes mountain valleys in the early 15th century, according to a report by the municipality. Itecons, a Portuguese company, designed it, and Conduril, a construction company, built it. The 516 Arouca bridge was built in two years and opened in April 2021 - it had cost $2.8 million. The bridge was built to boost Arouca's economy by attracting tourists and fresh investments, and Hugo Xavier was the first member of the public to walk across the bridge after it was opened. Xavier described the experience as giving him an adrenaline rush.

How to get to 516 Arouca Bridge

Both ends of the 516 Arouca Bridge are located on Alvarenga in Arouca municipality or Canelas parish in the Vila Nova de Gaia Municipality. Tourists wishing to visit can hire a car from either municipality to get to the bridge. From the south of Porto City, it's an hour's drive to get to the bridge on the Arouca side. Tourists who have never been to Portugal can contact the Arouca Geopark Association(AGA) which manages the Arouca Geopark to get credible information on how and where to visit. The bridge is open for visits all year round except Christmas, and tickets are booked in advance; visitors must show their booking confirmation. No tickets are sold on the bridge.

Costs

  • Adult (18 to 65 years) - 12 Euros
  • Young or Student (10 to 17 years) - 10 Euros
  • Children (6 to 9 years) - 10 Euros
  • Senior (over 65 years) - 10 Euros

What else to see or do after visiting the 516 Arouca Bridge

After crossing the 516 Arouca Bridge there are plenty of recreational activities to engage in and sites to see within Arouca Geopark.

Paiva Walkways

These are eight kilometers of wooden and zigzag walkways located on the left bank of River Paiva. They are perched atop a steep and rocky escarpment surrounded by lush landscapes and thickets, that goats, sheep, and cows graze on. The walkways allow tourists to see geology, biology, and archaeology within nature. Along the walkways are five Arouca Geopark sites. Paiva Walkways' natural ambiance is enhanced by the sounds of clear waters of River Pavia flowing downstream.

The walkways are nature lovers paradise, with three beaches tourists can swim on. Vau Beach is the most popular of the three beaches. It is advisable to tour the walkways from Areinho's side since it's downstream and less tiring. To tour the Paiva Walkways tickets are booked online after selecting the visiting date. Tickets are free for children under 10 years but cost a Euro for other age groups. At the end of the walkways are cafes that serve meals and drinks.

Jeep Tours

Jeep tours are available that venture at least 60 kilometers into the rugged Paiva Valley and Arouca Geopark. Tourists on these tours witness different geological sites like the Aguieiras Waterfalls. There is also the historical Paradinha village with schist and shale houses by the beach of River Paiva, that are occupied in summer. On the tours, local guides educate tourists on the landscape's habitat biodiversity, geological formations, history, culture, and archaeological sites. Along the way are picnic sites with drinks for hot and cold days. The costs of the Jeep tours start at 25 euros.

Water Sports And Recreation On Paiva River

In Portugal River Paiva is considered to have the best waters for white water rafting during winter. It has wild and fast-flowing water currents and rocky and narrow terrain. River Pavia has hosted several international white water festivals. From October to April when it rains, rafting enthusiasts flock the river to experience the adrenaline-inducing rafting when the river is full. Kayaking, canoeing, river trekking, and hydrospeeding are also done at River Paiva. These water recreational activities are recommended for people who are good swimmers, because of the unpredictable nature of the waters. Of all the watersports and recreational activities done at River Pavia, rafting is the most expensive with costs of up to 70 to 220 euros.

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