It’s probably best if you gird yourself before you look down from the Arouca Bridge.
The narrow footbridge suspended across a river canyon in northern Portugal claims to be the world’s longest pedestrian bridge and was officially inaugurated on Sunday, May 2.
The Arouca Bridge offers a half-kilometre walk across its span, along a metal walkway suspended from cables. Some 175 metres below, the Paiva River flows through a waterfall.
Arouca lies 300 kilometres north of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital.
Local residents got a first walk on the bridge last week. Many were thrilled — even as some admitted it was a little unnerving to feel so high up and exposed.
Hugo Xavier became one of the first people to cross the suspension bridge.
“Oh...here we go!,” the 42-year-old said anxiously as he gathered enough courage to step onto the see-through metal grid pathway of the bridge alongside his equally jittery partner and a tour guide.
“I was a little afraid, but it was so worth it,” a relieved Xavier said already on the other side. “It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.”
“It is a breath of fresh air for our land because it will attract more investment, more people,” said tour guide Emanuel, adding that the region was rapidly ageing as many young people moved to big cities.
“It will bring a new dynamic to Arouca.”
Standing on the bridge, the mayor of Arouca, Margarida Belem, said the bridge was part of a wider strategy to encourage more people to move and stay in the region.
“There were many challenges that we had to overcome... but we did it,” the visibly proud mayor told Reuters. “There’s no other bridge like this one in the world.“
Guinness World Records says on its website that the world’s longest suspension bridge for pedestrians is Japan’s Kokonoe Yume Bridge, which opened in 2006 and spans 390 metres.
But the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, which opened in the Swiss Alps in 2017, challenges that mark at 494 metres.
The Arouca Bridge cost €2.3 million ($3.5 million) to build.
Children under age 6 are not allowed on it and all visits will be accompanied by guides.