Paiva Walkways Hike: 2023 Hiking Guide in 9 Steps
We love day hiking! There is something incredibly therapeutic about getting outdoors and immersing yourself in nature. We knew we wanted to incorporate some type of outdoor adventure as we planned our trip to Portugal. I consulted Google where the best day hikes were and Paiva Walkways popped up. We were sold. Plus, you can combine it with a walk across the Arouca Bridge, the second longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world.
I quickly found out there were quite a few logistics and questions to work through to make this incredible day hike happen. Here’s how we did it, which I think gives you the best experience for your time and effort.
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Step 1: Rent a Car
There’s no great public transportation to get to Paiva Walkways from major cities like Porto. You will need to either go with a …
1) Group tour on a day trip from Porto.
2) Rent a car from Porto and do a day trip out to Paiva Walkways.
3) Rent a car from Porto, drive to Douro Valley for several nights, and hit Paiva Walkways on your way back to Porto.
If you go with a group tour, Get Your Guide is a great resource to connect you with reputable companies.
We used the highly-rated car rental company CAEL, a local Portuguese company, and had a great experience.
We always buy “all the insurances” even though we have some coverage with our Chase card. This allows us to have a stress-free trip. If you drive from Porto, it will take 1.5-2 hours to get to the start of the hike.
Alternatively, you could arrive at Porto Airport, drive straight out to Douro Valley to spend several nights sipping on Portugal’s best wine, and then include Paiva Walkways as part of your road trip back to Porto.
This is what we did!
Step 2: Book the 11:30 AM Slot at Alvarenga
You need to purchase tickets online AHEAD of time. If you do not include the Arouca Bridge, the cost of hiking the Paiva Walkways is € 1.
It’s € 12 for both Paiva Walkways + the Arouca Bridge.
There are 2,500 slots daily for the Paiva Walkways and 35 slots per entrance time to visit the Arouca Bridge.
Should you include the Arouca Bridge?
Yes! Make sure to book in advance since time slots are limited.
The Arouca Bridge in Portugal
If you decide to include the Arouca Bridge, check out my tips before you visit. It’s an incredible engineering feat.
Step 3: Park at Espiunca
The Paiva Walkways hike is an out-and-back hike. It’s 8.7 km (5.5 miles) each way.
There are two access points: Areinho and Espiunca. If you are planning this hike, you will have to decide which entrance to park at.
Map of Paiva Walkways
If you start from Espiunca and end at Areinho, you are hiking upward and it will be more challenging.
If you start from Areinho and end in Espiunca, you are hiking mostly downhill and it will be relatively easy.
Note, that there is an initial uphill climb of 500 steps from the Areinho parking lot, but then it is mostly downhill after that. If you start the Paiva Walkways hike towards Espiunca after you cross the Arouca Bridge, you skip that 500-step climb.
The Espiunca parking lot is huge with plenty of spaces.
Parking is free.
Espiunca parking lot for Paiva Walkways
There is a clean bathroom right across the road from the parking lot.
We parked at Espiunca, but we did not start our hike there.
Instead, we took an open-air jeep to the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge, walked across the bridge, and then hiked downhill on the Paiva Walkways back to our car in Espiunca. See the map below for orientation.
Map of Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways
Step 4: Take a Taxi or Jeep to the Arouca Bridge
Taking a ride in an open-air jeep
There is no pre-booking for a taxi or jeep, so we were worried that we were going to have a hard time finding transport to the Arouca Bridge from the Espiunca parking lot.
Remember, you have a specific time slot booked for the bridge, so you can’t be late.
Make sure to allot plenty of time for parking, getting a taxi, and hiking to the start of the Arouca Bridge.
Surprisingly, when we arrived at 10:15 am at the Espiunca parking lot, there were plenty of taxis and jeeps. We waved down an open-air jeep.
€ 15 and 15 minutes later we were at the start of the hiking point down to the bridge.
Step 5: Hike to the Alvarenga Entrance of the Bridge
You cannot be dropped off right at the Arouca Bridge.
The bridge has two entrances: Areinho and Alvarenga. A 60-minute hike is required to access the Areinho entrance or a 15-20 minute hike is required to enter the Alvarenga entrance.
We chose the Alvarenga entrance. See the map below.
Map of the small hike to the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge
Our jeep dropped us right off at the trailhead. The trailhead starts to the right of the cemetery.
GPS coordinates: 40°58’09.7″N 8°09’47.6″W
Trailhead to the Alvarenga entrance of Arouca Bridge
We followed the very clear hiking trail signs to the bridge entrance.
Follow the “Ponte Suspensa” signs.
Trail to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge
You will be walking along cobblestone streets around peoples’ homes and through a small forest on your way to the bridge.
It was an easy 15-20 minute hike.
Small hike to Alvarenga entrance of Arouca Bridge
Step 6: Walk Across the Arouca Bridge
Walking across the bridge
Although this day trip is not worth it for the bridge alone, when you combine it with the Paiva Walkways it is pretty incredible!
The view of the Paiva River, the valley, the long winding wooden walkways, and the Aguieiras Waterfall is breathtaking.
The suspension bridge does sway a little as you pass by all the steel cables, which can be a little intimidating especially if you have a fear of heights. You can see straight down past your feet.
There are rails to grab to steady your balance. Fifteen minutes later your feet will land on sturdy ground.
Step 7: Don’t Forget the Water Station
If you haven’t done so already, fill your water bottle up at the water station just past the bridge exit.
You will need it especially if you are hiking in the summer. It is HOT.
Water station at Areinho entrance of the Arouca Bridge
You may even see some wildlife at the other end of the bridge.
Goats hanging out at the Arouca Bridge
Step 8: Hike the 5.5 Mile Paiva Walkways
Walking on the wooden Paiva Walkways in Portugal
Now you get to enjoy a lovely 5.5-mile hike along winding wooden walkways that snake along the babbling Paiva River.
Of note, we got a little confused after we exited the Areinho entrance of the Arouca Bridge. We accidentally started hiking down the wooden steps toward the Areinho parking lot. Do not do that.
Instead, once you exit the Areinho entrance, U-turn back around on the dirt path towards the Arouca Bridge to access the Paiva Walkways.
See the picture below.
After you exit the bridge on the Areinho side, circle back towards the bridge on the dirt path to hike the Paiva Walkways
I loved this hike!
It follows the Paiva River almost the whole time. There is a fair amount of shade in certain sections, which I appreciated in the hot sun.
Paiva Walkways hike
Along the way, you will encounter a small waterfall and a little suspension bridge.
That bridge is not part of the trail, but you can make a small detour to walk across it.
Suspension bridge on Paiva Walkways hike
There is even a “snack house” at the halfway point of the hike, serving drinks and sandwiches.
We ordered a little ham & cheese sandwich to tie us over to the end of the hike. Not bad for being out in the middle of nowhere.
Ham and cheese sandwich at the snack shop on Paiva Walkways hike
Towards the end, we encountered a beautiful section of the hike where the Paiva River makes a horseshoe bend.
Horseshoe bend of the Paiva River
We arrived at the Espiunca parking lot 30 minutes after this horseshoe bend.
Step 9: End the Hike at a Scenic Cafe
Bifana sandwich at Recanto do Paiva
We were still hungry after ending our hike, so we decided to rest our legs at a cute little cafe called Recanto do Paiva that flanks the river.
It’s right next to the Espiunca parking lot. Two bifana sandwiches and one sangria later, we were happy and full hikers.
FOODIE TIP: If you want to see who makes the BEST bifana sandwich in Porto, check out my article below (hint: it’s #4 on our food tour).
Remember there’s a bathroom right across the parking lot. After washing up, we made the drive back to Porto.
BTW, we loved having our car right there in Espiunca at the end of our hike. No waiting around for a taxi after a long hike.
I strongly recommend doing it this way.
How Much Time to Allow for Paiva Walkways
Here was our schedule:
- 10:15 AM: Arrived at Espiunca parking lot
- 10:35 AM: Jeep dropped us off at the hike down to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge
- 10:50 AM: Arrived at the Alvarenga entrance (they ask you to arrive 15 minutes PRIOR to your booked time slot)
- 11:30 AM: Arouca Bridge tour briefing
- 11:50 AM: Start the walk across the bridge
- 12:15 PM: Start the Paiva Walkways hike
- 1:05 PM: Grabbed a sandwich at the snack shop at the halfway point
- 2 PM: Ended the hike
- 2:20 PM: Enjoyed a bifana sandwich and sangria
- 2:35 PM: Drove back to Porto
I would allow 5 hours for this entire experience if you include the Arouca Bridge.
What to Bring for the Paiva Walkways Hike
#1- WATER BOTTLE
Bring a water bottle. There is one water filling station at the Areinho entrance of the Arouca Bridge
#2- TRAIL RUNNERS
You do not need hardcore hiking boots. Normal tennis shoes or trail runners will do. Love my Saucony’s!
If you know me by now, I constantly preach the importance of sunscreen. I have a few favorites, but my go-to is Elta MD UV Clear sunscreen.
I record almost every hike we do on my GoPro as a fun hobby. Although my husband doesn’t believe me, eventually I will get around to posting all of our hiking experiences.
#6- BATHING SUIT
There are a few areas where you can swim. We do not do this, but there were quite a few people who did.
If you want to stop at the “snack shop” halfway through the hike or enjoy a light late lunch after, bring some euros.
Was this detour worth it on our way back to Porto from Douro Valley?
I would say wholeheartedly yes!
The views from the Paiva Walkways and Arouca Bridge were incredible! It was not a strenuous long hike when you walk it point to point, which allows plenty of time in the evening for other fun Porto activities.
Walking on the wooden walkways
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Questions on planning your visit to the Paiva Walkways?
Let me know in the comments below!
This is the perfect plan! Thank you for figuring out the logistics and sharing them!
My husband and I were so confused when we planned this hike about where to park, where we start, which direction is best, etc. I’m really happy to hear this guide helped because the planning is a little tricky.
I have been trying to figure out the best way to do this hike and how to combine it with the Arouca bridge. Thank you so much for working out this perfect plan and sharing it. Can’t wait!
I’m so glad to hear you found this guide helpful! Let me know if you have any other questions. Enjoy your trip!
I’d like to do a shorter hike with my senior parents. The Arouca bridge plus the Paiva walkway is definitely too long for them. What is the shortest possible route? Maybe just the bridge some how?
It depends on your parents’ mobility. If it’s limited, best just to visit the Arouca Bridge. The easiest/shortest route is to visit from the Alvarenga entrance side of the bridge, but that still requires about a 9-10 minute walk from the parking lot and another 15-20 minute “mini hike” to the entrance. Of course, you have to walk back after you are done. You can’t just drive up to the bridge.
Walking across the Arouca Bridge can be a little nerve-wracking if you are scared of heights or have vertigo/get dizzy. You can walk across the Arouca Bridge both ways. Happy to answer any other questions.
Hi there! Thank you for these posts!
I’m trying to follow along. Is there a reason you did not just park at the Espiunca entrance -> hike -> cross the bridge -> get a taxi back to your entrance? Or park at the Espiunca entrance -> get a taxi to the Areinho entrance -> cross the bridge and do the hike back to your entrance? Why go to the Alvarenga entrance? Thanks!
Great question. Thanks for reaching out.
If you park at Espiunca then hike to the bridge, you are taking a chance of missing your reserved time slot at Arouca Bridge (the hiking could take you longer than expected, you stop for more photos, break for a snack, etc). We did not want to feel rushed to make our reservation time, so we chose to do the bridge first which made the hiking experience after more relaxed.
If you choose to park at Espiunca and start at the Areinho entrance instead, you will have to climb uphill about 500 steps. It takes 60 minutes to get to the bridge from Areinho according to the official Arouca website (vs. 15-20 minutes from the Alvarenga entrance). Then you would have to cross the bridge and then cross back on the bridge again to continue on to Espiunca. In our opinion, this was not the best use of our time.
We are thinking of hiking part of the walkway and turning around and going back to our car. Say 45 minutes in and 45 minutes out. The bridge is not an option since my wife is afraid of heights. Is this type a hike reasonable and a possibility? if so, which entrance is best?
The trail is gorgeous, but I’m not sure if it would be worth all the time and effort to drive from Porto for 90 minutes of hiking (unless this was part of a road trip to the next city).
I would strongly suggest doing the hike point to point. You can do the hike from Areinho to Espiunca or Espiunca to Areinho WITHOUT doing the Arouca Bridge. Once you reach the bridge, you just hike past it.
If you do it point to point, most people recommend hiking it from the Areinho entrance to Espiunca because after the initial uphill 60 min section then you are hiking downhill and downstream following the river.
I highly recommend the AllTrails app. We use it for all of our hikes. It has the elevation gain, which you may find helpful.
We are travelling with 2 children so we don’t want to do the entire Paiva walkway. Can we do a short section of it and turn around?
My husband and I saw people of all ages hiking the trail including families. You do not have to hike it one-way and can turn around at any point. Happy Travels!