For explorers with a love of active adventures, geoparks make for an exciting discovery when diving into a destination. Recognized for its geodiversity and geological heritage, Portugal’s Arouca Geopark has earned a reputation as a must-visit for the traveler seeking invigorating experiences.
Arouca is located about an hour inland from Porto. In 2009, it became a part of the UNESCO Global Geoparks network. Geoconservation efforts have led to the recognition of Arouca’s mountain ranges carved by narrow valleys as an important facet of Portugal’s landscape. Among its most significant highlights, the Canelas Slate Quarry is home to the Castanheira Nodular Granite. Here, a strange occurrence known as “rocks delivering stones” (pedras parideiras) happens, in which smaller rocks appear to sprout from a parent rock.
While Arouca Geopark contains 41 geosites to trek and explore, what most adventurers seek out is Ponte 516, a suspension bridge that hangs over 500 feet above a fast-flowing river. At almost 1,700 feet long, it is among the longest suspension bridges in the world. Walking the swaying bridge is a test of every explorer’s mettle, but the view it provides is well worth the challenge.
Although the design is modern, it takes its inspiration from ancient designs from the Incas, the indigenous peoples of the Andes Mountains. Arouca’s bridge uses steel cables running its length, anchored by towers in a V-shape at either end, whereas the Incas’ design used handwoven grass.
It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk across the suspension bridge. Along the way, you’re rewarded with sights of the Aguieiras Waterfall, Paiva Gorge, the Paiva Walkways and Alvarenga Bridge, all landmarks within the bounds of Arouca Geopark.
The UNESCO-listed park also offers other walkways, Neolithic graves, archaeological sites and Roman ruins to explore. You can also find opportunities to go mountain biking, kayaking and rafting.