So you’re planning a trip to Portugal, and you’re wondering if the Arouca 516 suspension bridge is worth visiting?
Arouca 516 is one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world spanning 516 metres. This epic crossing is also super high up, you will find the raging river Paiva 175 metres below you. This impressive structure is amazing, with its seemingly endless lengths of steel cable holding it all together. Officially opened in 2021, “Ponte Arouca 516” made headlines as the “World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge”. The views from the bridge are impeccable, you can truly soak in the beauty of the Arouca Geopark in such a unique way upon the bridge.
This post covers everything you need to know about the Arouca 516 suspension bridge, and most importantly, lets you know if it is worth visiting.
About The Bridge
Ponte Arouca 516 is a pretty new suspension bridge, it opened in May 2021 with the hopes of bringing more tourists to the area. It has certainly achieved its tourism goals, people come from far and wide to walk across what was the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. This record has since been beaten by the ‘sky bridge’ in Michigan, USA. The bridge itself has a very interesting construction, made up of 127, 4-metre-long sections. Each section is completely independent of the sections beside it. For this reason, you can really feel the movement in the bridge when you walk across it. At a staggering 175 metres above ground at its highest point, this bridge is not for the faint-hearted. This extraordinary bridge took 2 years to construct and cost a whopping €2.3 million. An astonishing 24 km of steel cable holds this bridge together.
Where Is Arouca 516?
To be frank, Arouca 516 is essentially in the middle of nowhere in Portugal. Located in the municipality of Arouca in the Averio District, it is fair to say this bridge is pretty remote. The only real way to reach the bridge is by driving yourself, either by car or a campervan like us. To reach Arouca, you need to drive through a lot of small towns with roads that feel a little too narrow. The roads are incredibly windy so take it slow!
Once you reach Arouca, you need to decide which side of the bridge you want to be you’re ‘home base’ The the purchase of a bridge crossing ticket, you are entitled to cross the bridge, and return within certain times. There are pros and cons for choosing either side of the bridge.
Canelas seems to be the more popular entrance with tickets selling out a lot more quickly. This is perhaps because you get to walk the Paiva Walkways on your way to the bridge. The views on this walk are quite incredible and you can get a different perspective of the bridge this way. There are a couple of different parking options on this side of the bridge. The largest is around a 25-minute walk. But be warned, the walk is not the easiest, it is essentially a big wooden staircase all the way up to the bridge.
The other entrance is near the small town of Alvarenga. there are a couple of different parking options here, although none of the car parks are particularly big or close to the bridge. From the designated parking area in the town, it is a 15-minute walk through the woods to reach the bridge. There are signs pointing you in the direction of the bridge however it does feel very unofficial and incorrect. Just trust the signs and you will stumble upon the bridge eventually.
You must buy a ticket online to be allowed to cross the bridge. It is not possible to buy tickets once you are there. Annoyingly, there is no wifi or 4G service at the bridge so purchasing a ticket in the vicinity of the bridge is not currently possible. When you book a ticket you must choose a time slot for crossing the bridge. You must also specify which side of the bridge you will be crossing from. Once you have purchased a ticket, you will be emailed your ticket with a QR code – you will need to show this to the bridge attendants to get onto the bridge.
If you intend on visiting Arouca in the summer/peak tourism times, be sure to purchase your ticket well in advance as they can sell out quite quickly. Access to the bridge is limited to 500 people per day. This equates to a maximum of 35 people per group.
The tickets are quite expensive at €12 per person. Included in this cost is a safety briefing from one of the bridge attendants. The attended also provided interesting information about the bridge and its surroundings – essentially a guide to the bridge. As well as access to the bridge, your ticket entitles you access to the legendary Pavia Walkways right beside the bridge.
As mentioned previously, your Arouca 516 ticket gives you access to the Pavia Walkways. The Pavia walkways are a series of wooden paths which zig-zag their way along the wild Paiva River. Walking these pathways is a great way to experience the Arouca Geopark, you may as well walk at least part of it as you have essentially paid for it. Over an 8km stretch, these wooden pathways and staircases grip the side of the hills giving you the best views of the rugged scenery around you. This walk has been praised by many for its uniqueness and has even won many tourism awards.
If you wish to walk along these pathways without crossing the Arouca 516 bridge, it only costs €1 if you buy your ticket online.
If you are crossing from the Alvarenga entrance and intend on walking the pathways after, be sure to book an early time slot. During the winter, if you cross after 3:30 pm you will not be allowed to walk the pathways. If you have a time slot in the late afternoon, it is advisable to walk the Pavia Walkways prior to crossing the bridge. You can access the Pavia walkways on the same day as your bridge crossing, you just need to show your ticket as proof.
What To Expect When Crossing The Bridge
It is recommended that you arrive at the bridge 15 minutes before your time slot. After quite a bit of hanging around waiting for everyone in your time slot to have their tickets checked it is time for the safety briefing. This briefing is available in different languages. The guide will speak for around 20 minutes giving you all the appropriate information about the bridge.
Then it is time to cross the bridge. To get the best pictures we recommend waiting to cross the bridge last in your group. This way you will not have everybody else in your photos. As the crossing is over 500 metres, people tend to spread out quite a bit. This means you can enjoy your own space on the bridge and take all the photos you want.
Is It Worth Visiting Arouca 516?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to ‘is Arouca 516 worth visiting?’. Paying €12 to simply cross a bridge is quite expensive. The price, as well as the hassle of booking tickets, finding parking and walking through the woods makes it a little offputting. That being said, crossing the bridge is an amazing experience that was great fun and an adrenaline rush. The incredible panoramic views you get to see from the bridge are astonishing. So for that reasons, Arouca 516 is worth visiting. Not many people can say that they have walked across one of the longest pedestrial suspension bridges in the world.
All things considered, Arouca 516 is a great landmark. We loved our experience at the bridge but probably wouldn’t do it again. It is one of those experiences that is worth doing once. Once you have crossed the bridge once and soaked in the views, there is not really any reason to return.