Arouca Bridge in Portugal: 7 Things to Know Before You Go
Love adrenaline rushes and hiking to beautiful destinations? Then you are going to love a visit to the impressive engineering marvel, the Arouca Bridge in Portugal! It is the second longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the WORLD. Spanning a length of 516 meters and suspended by multiple steel cables, it is not for the faint of heart. The views are breathtaking and at the end you can combine it with a visit to another incredible outdoor adventure, the Paiva Walkways. Here are a few helpful planning tips to make the most of your bridge experience.
To Do the 516 Arouca Bridge or Not
Yes! Do it.
Some say it’s just a tourist trap, but I think it’s incredible. Inspired by Inca bridges, the Arouca suspension bridge is 516 meters in length and 175 meters high. It was considered the longest pedestrian suspension in the WORLD. However, it just got beat out by the Sky Bridge in the Czech Republic, which is 721 meters long.
Arouca Suspension Bridge in Portugal
Nonetheless, the Arouca Bridge offers breathtaking views over the Paiva River and the valley below. You can take in this view on all sides as you walk across the bridge, including even below your feet if you dare to look.
Seeing straight down below my feet on the Arouca Bridge in Portugal
If you are scared of heights though, skip it. The bridge does sway a little bit as you walk across, but you can hold on to the rails with both hands to steady your balance if you need it.
Walking across the bridge
Areinho vs. Alvarenga: Which Entrance to Choose
You can access the bridge in two locations: Areinho or Alvarenga. Is one better than another?
Depends on what you want to do. If you are looking to include the Paiva Walkways, I would strongly suggest booking the Alvarenga entrance.
#1 COMBINING THE BRIDGE WITH PAIVA WALKWAYS
The Paiva Walkways start on the Areinho side of the bridge. If you want to do the Arouca Bridge + Paiva Walkways, you should start on the Alvarenga side, walk across the suspension bridge to the Areinho side, and then immediately access one of the best day hikes in Portugal … the Paiva Walkways!
If you are including the Paiva Walkways, don’t miss my ultimate hiking guide below.
Walking on the Paiva Walkways in Portugal
See the map below for orientation.
Map of Arouca Bridge in Portugal
#2 EASIER HIKE TO THE ALVARENGA ENTRANCE
One important thing to know is you do not drive right up to the Arouca Bridge. You park offsite and then do a small hike to one of the two entrances of the bridge.
If you park on the Areinho side, it will require climbing UPHILL about 500 steps to get to the entrance. The official Arouca website states to estimate up to 60 minutes to get to the Areinho entrance.
In contrast, it’s only an easy 15-20 minute hike to the start of the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge. That way you can conserve your energy before you start the 5.5 mile one-way hike on the Paiva Walkways.
Baby hike to the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge
The trail to the Alvarenga entrance starts to the right of the cemetery as seen below. GPS coordinates of the starting point: 40°58’09.7″N 8°09’47.6″W
Trailhead to Alvarenga entrance of Arouca Bridge
There are clear well-marked signs that state “Ponte Suspensa.” You can’t miss them. Follow them to the bridge.
Trail to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge
How Long Does It Take To Cross the Arouca Bridge
We booked the 11:30 am time slot. A guide then gave a brief introduction of the Arouca Bridge infrastructure and rules in both Portuguese and English. The talk lasted about 20 minutes.
Briefing before walking across
We started our walk across the suspension bridge at 11:50 am and were across by 12:05 pm. It took us 15 minutes to cross one way, which included multiple photo and video stops.
By the way, after you reach the end, you can walk back across the bridge to your starting location.
Arouca Bridge as seen from the Paiva Walkways
What Time Slot is Best
You must purchase a ticket online BEFORE your visit, and you have to select a SPECIFIC time slot. Only 35 tickets are available for each time slot at each entrance.
If you are including the Paiva Walkways, the earlier the better. We picked the 11:30 am time slot since we were driving from the Douro valley. I strongly suggest starting with the bridge first, which will make the Paiva Walkways hike relaxed and not rushed.
If you start with the Paiva Walkways and end with the Arouca Bridge, you are on a time clock to ensure you make it to your selected time slot for the bridge. I have no idea what happens if you are late. I imagine you get shifted to the next time slot IF there’s availability. If not, you are probably out of luck.
Where to Park to Access the Arouca Bridge
The Arouca Bridge official website gives exact GPS locations on where to park for each of the two entrances: Areinho and Alvarenga.
MAP OF AREINHO ENTRANCE PARKING
GPS Coordinates: 40°57’10.2″N 8°10’35.1″W
MAP OF ALVARENGA ENTRANCE PARKING
GPS Coordinates: 40°58’11.1″N 8°09’26.1″W
My husband and I are always looking for the best way to do things. Instead of using the suggested parking lots, we parked in a town called Espiunca. Espiunca marks one of the two ending points of Paiva Walkways. The other ending point is Areinho.
We then took an open-air jeep from Espiunca to the trailhead of the 15-20 minute hike to get to the Alvarenga entrance of the bridge. The cost was 15 euros total for both of us. Normally, there are plenty of taxis and jeeps lined up at both Areinho and Espiunca taking tourists back and forth since most people hike Paiva Walkways only one way.
Taking an open-air jeep
Once we finished up our day hike on Paiva Walkways in Espiunca, our car was right there waiting for us. Seamless.
Confused? See the map below.
Map of Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways
Day Trip from Porto or Road Trip from Douro Valley
A lot of people enjoy the Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways as a day trip from Porto, which takes anywhere from 1.5-2 hours depending on the day and time you leave. If you do not have a car, you could join a highly-rated group tour.
Alternatively, you could also make this outdoor adventure part of a road trip around northern Portugal like we did. We landed in Porto and drove straight out to Douro Valley and enjoyed 4 lovely nights in the heart of wine country. Then on our drive back to Porto, we made a detour to the Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways.
Arouca Bridge + Paiva Walkways Tour vs. No Tour
If you have a car, you do not need a tour. If you follow my planning tips, you can easily explore the bridge and do the Paiva Walkways on your own.
Now, if you don’t have a car, that’s a different story. There’s no great way to do all of this using public transportation. Without a set of wheels, you are going to need to book a small group tour as a day trip from Porto.
Get Your Guide is always a great resource that offers reputable tour options.
We do so much research for all of our travel experiences to make our valuable vacation time smooth and seamless. Hopefully, these 7 tips help you as you plan out your visit to the incredible Arouca Bridge. We loved the experience because we could also combine it with one of Portugal’s best day hikes, the Paiva Walkways. However, I would not suggest a visit to the Arouca Bridge alone because of the time it involves just to get there.
Arouca Bridge seen from the Areinho entrance
Questions on planning your visit to the Arouca Bridge?
Let me know in the comments below!