World's longest suspension footbridge lets walkers get some mountain air
Those nervous of heights should probably steer clear of the newly completed 516 Arouca bridge in Portugal. As its name suggests, the tourist attraction runs high above a river for 516 m (1,692 ft) and is hailed as the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge by Portuguese officials.
The bridge sits 175 m (574 ft) above a rushing river in the UNESCO-recognized Arouca Geopark, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. The 516 Arouca bridge is significantly longer than the previous world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps, which measures 494 m (1,620 ft).
The bridge's construction was led by Itecons, Conduril - Engenharia SA, and the Portugal National Laboratory of Civil Engineering. Structurally, it consists of two large V-shaped concrete towers at either side of a valley, which support the bridge proper. This includes 127 steel sections that are held in place by steel cables.
According to the team, it took several months of careful calculations to ensure the cables could withstand the wind, with lots of testing carried out in a wind tunnel. The project cost €2.1 million (roughly US$2.5 million) and was first conceived back in 2016. Construction then began in 2018 and the bridge was finally completed in late 2020.
The hope is that the bridge will help revitalize tourism in an area hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting loss of income.
"The 516 Arouca is a remarkable work of national engineering and will certainly be one of the most iconic works of the municipality of Arouca and of the country and that will surely become an [example] of modernity," says local president Margarida Belém (via Google Translate). "This was a challenging and ambitious project and, above all, it is a project that makes us all very proud. It is a remarkable work for a municipality of our size, but equal to the [locals] and their capacity for resilience and struggle."
If you'd like to visit yourself, tickets cost €12 ($14.50), which includes entry to the nearby Passadiços do Paiva walking trails. The entire experience, including the walking trails, takes around an hour and a half.
Update May 10, 2021: A reader has spotted a suspended footbridge that is actually 51 m longer than 516 Arouca. The Baglung Parbat Footbridge in Nepal has a total length of 567 m (1,860 ft), which would make it the world's longest pedestrian suspension footbridge."
Source: 516 Arouca (in Portuguese)