A walk on the Paiva footbridges and the 516 Arouca suspension bridge

If you're on holiday in northern Portugal, there's a great nature activity waiting for you 60km from Porto: a highly original walk over the Paiva footbridges and across the 516 Arouca suspension bridge. Passadiços do Paiva is an 8.7 km walk on wooden footbridges (you'll have caught the name) over a mountain, following the Paiva river as it flows into the Douro, which you'll have already seen in Oporto. This hiking trail is located in the Arouca Geopark (a UNESCO-recognised geological heritage site).

The trail opened in 2015, and due to its huge success, it is now limited to a number of visitors per day, and booking is compulsory. From May 2021, you will be able to cross the world's largest pedestrian suspension bridge, the 516 Arouca Bridge, to the south of the footbridges.

Arouca suspension bridge

- © @AncaEnache

Why visit the Paiva footbridges and the 516 Arouca suspension bridge?

This walk is a real change of scenery, with a touch of the Chinese Wall about it. You'll find yourself in the middle of nature and will be able to observe 9 biospots along the 8,700-metre route, discovering insects, animals and plants along the way. You can also see a waterfall (Aguieiras) and a waterfall that flows into the Paiva river (the Gola do Salto). During your walk, you can even take a break to swim in the river on Vau beach.

As for the 516 Arouca suspension bridge, crossing it will provide you with a thrilling experience in complete safety, 175 metres above the Paiva river, one of the wildest in Portugal. Be warned, though, that the bridge moves when you step on it, so you'll have to summon up all your courage and forget that you're afraid of heights.

Who is this activity aimed at?

This walk is not accessible to pushchairs and should be avoided with young children unless you have a baby carrier. Even so, the large number of steps to climb up and down can make the walk a little difficult for small children. However, you can choose to do only part of the walk and then turn back. You can also do just the 516 Arouca bridge, but you'll still have to walk 1.2 km, climb 500 steps and cross the 516-metre bridge.

The 516 Arouca bridge is not suitable for children under the age of 6. Unfortunately, these two activities are not suitable for people with reduced mobility. Apart from that, the walk on the footbridges is accessible to all and poses no difficulty. You'll need good stamina and a good pace if you want to do it in the recommended 2.5 hours, but you are of course free to take all day to discover the scenery and take as many breaks as you like. If you're doing the round trip (17 km), you'll need to be fairly sporty.

How do I buy a ticket for the walk on the footbridges and for the 516 Arouca bridge?

If you just want to hike the footbridges, you will need to make a reservation here, stating your full name, address, the day of your visit and the access point from which you will start your hike. There are two entrances: Espiunca and Areinho.

👛 Prices:

Paiva footbridges: €2 Bridge 516 Arouca: Adults aged 18 to 65: €12; Children under 18: €10; Seniors over 65: €10; Family passes are available. The ticket for the bridge also gives you access to the footbridges if you do both activities on the same day.

⏰ Opening times :

Paiva footbridges: April to October: 9am to 7pm with last entry at 4pm May to September: 8am to 8pm with last entry at 5pm November to March: 9am to 5pm with last entry at 3pm516 Arouca bridge: April to October: 9am to 7pm May to September: 8am to 8pm November to March: 9am to 5pm. During this period, if you choose the 3.30 p.m. time slot to cross the bridge, you must have done the footbridges beforehand.

How does the visit work?

Paiva footbridges :

You'll have to climb 500 steps along the way, including 300 at the start of the walk if you start from Areinho. As for swimming, you can enjoy the Areinho and Espiunca river beaches, as well as the Vau beach in the middle. If you only make the journey in one direction, you can return by taxi for a fare of between €10 and €15. It's really important to bring plenty of water, as most of the walk takes place in the sun. Depending on the season, plan to arrive as soon as the park opens, so as not to suffer too much from the heat.

Walk on the footbridges

- © Celso Pereira / Shutterstock

Bridge 516 Arouca :

Plan to arrive earlier than the time indicated on your ticket, as the bridge can only be accessed from one of two sides: Canelas, with its 500 wooden steps, or Alvarenga, with its kilometre-long walk along a signposted path. Please note that the bridge is accessible to a maximum of 30 people at any one time.

Pont 516 Arouca

- © odecam / Shutterstock

⭐ Where to stay to visit the Passadiços do Paiva and the 516 Arouca suspension bridge?

Quinta de Anterronde Porto

Quinta de Anterronde

15th-century establishment occupying a farmhouse
9.1 Fabulous
£77 / night
by Editorial Team
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