The Mondego Walkways are one of the new ways to enjoy the magnificent landscapes of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, one of the natural wonders of Portugal. These are one of the most recent national walkways, but in our opinion, they are already one of the best walkways in Portugal.
Located in Guarda, the Mondego footbridges connect the village of Videmonte and the Caldeirão Dam over 12 km. The route is well-signposted and can be done in both directions. In addition to these entrances, there is another one in Vila Soeiro, about 3 km from the dam.
Despite being known as the Mondego footbridges, the route a mix of footbridges and trails – it uses about five km of existing mountain paths and several sections of walkways with a total of seven km. In addition to the walkways, we also have three suspension bridges and several waterfalls, levadas, dams, and old mills.
Entry to the Mondego walkways is controlled but costs only one euro per person. At the time of writing this article, it’s still free.
Mondego walkways – General information
- Name: Mondego Walkways
- Start – Videmonte/Caldeirão dam, Guarda
- End – Caldeirão/Videmonte dam, Guarda
- Distance – 12 km (one way)
- Time required – 4 to 5 hours
- Difficulty – Moderate to high due to distance and unevenness
- Max/min altitude: – 884.5 /545.4 meters
- Altitude gain: 800 meters
- Type – Linear
- Signaling (1-5) – 5
- Highlights: Walkways, Mondego River, the two waterfalls, the three suspension bridges
- You can download the flyer here.
What’s the best direction to take?
Since this is a linear route, we must decide which direction to take. That is, whether we start at Videmonte or the Caldeirão Dam. There is also the possibility of starting in Vila Soeiro, shortening the route by around 3 km.
The organization recommends taking the Mondego walkways in Caldeirão-Videmonte dam and heading towards Videmonde. This will avoid the climb from the Mizarela bridge to the top of the dam, which is undoubtedly the most challenging part of the route.
The climb to the dam is very hard, as there are many stairs, but it’s less than 1 km. Even if you have to stop to catch your breath 3 or 10 times, it’s good – especially knowing that we’re ending there.
The downside of starting at the dam is that after the first kilometer and a half downhill, nearly the entire rest of the route is uphill. Plus, in the end, you still have the long staircase to the entrance of Videmonte to do. It’s not as hard as the dam, but it’s pretty tough.
On the other hand, if we start in Videmonte, we practically always go downhill (there are some small climbs in the middle) for about 10 km until we reach the Mizarela bridge. Then comes the hardness because the staircase is enormous.
Thus, the altitude difference is negative in this direction, as we start at almost 900 meters of altitude and end at just 750 meters. That’s why we decided to do the Mondego walkways, starting in Videmonte and ending at the Dam. And we didn’t regret it; the final climb was challenging but doable, and the 10km descent was simply pleasant.
It is important to note that if you are thinking of starting or ending in Vila Soeiro, it is much easier to begin in Videmonte, as you will not go up the dam and will only go down.
Our experience on the Mondego Walkways
As we mentioned, we decided to start the route in Videmonte to take advantage of the negative altitude difference. Before entering the walkways, you must validate your ticket at the entrance. Please note that buying a ticket or making a reservation directly at the entrance is not possible. They only validate! This is valid for all entries.
The route begins almost 900 meters above sea level and with the long descent of the Videmonte staircase. At the end of the first set of stairs, we have the Ribeira de Moinhos waterfall. It is a beautiful waterfall, one of this walk’s first highlights.
From here, we continue to descend for another one to two km, but now with a mixture of stairs and slightly descending walkways. The landscape is beautiful, and the cliffs with the long walkways are reminiscent of the iconic Paiva walkways.
At the end of this section of walkways, we come to a long suspension bridge that takes us to the other bank, and from here, we no longer have walkways and go along mountain paths for some time. It is also here that we have the only relevant climb of this phase of the route. It’s tough, but it’s only about 300 meters.
After about another 1.5 km, we cross another suspension bridge and enter a new section of walkways. This is relatively short and ends again on a suspension bridge, the third and last of this trail. This whole phase is descending, but only slightly.
After the bridge, we will enter a section of walkways indicated as an accessible area, as people can do it with reduced mobility. From here to Vila Soeiro, the route alternates between rural paths with footbridges.
Upon arriving at the entrance to Vila Soeiro, we have to validate our ticket again and follow the path. This part of the trail is relatively easy and continues to follow the Mondego river along rural paths until we reach a paved road. Once there, we must follow the yellow line painted on the road for a few hundred meters until Misarela Bridge.
Arriving at the bridge, we have to cross it and, on the other side, turn right onto an old road. Here begins the hardship of the journey. Initially, the road is steep for a few hundred meters, then we reach the walkways.
On the walkways, we enter the final ascent to the dam. Take it easy, there are a lot of stairs, and honestly, from a distance, it’s a little scary, but going steady and calmly it’s okay. In the middle of the staircase, there is the possibility of taking a short detour to the viewpoint of the Caldeirão waterfall; if you still have energy, go. It’s quite beautiful.
At the end of the trek, you can still go to the Mocho Real viewpoint through an old staircase excavated in the rock. Despite the accumulated fatigue, it’s well worth it. After all, it’s just a few more stairs, and it’s really a privileged location to see the panoramic landscape. It is also one of the geosites of the Serra da Estrela Geopark.
Finally, don’t forget to validate your ticket again to confirm your departure from the route.
How to go back to the beginning?
One of the main issues of this walk is that it is a linear route with 12 km. In other words, to go back on foot, we would have to do 24 km, which is unrealistic or too difficult for almost everyone. So we have to have a way to make the journey back.
Unfortunately, there is no (yet) organized transport in this sense, so the only alternatives are to take two cars or use a taxi. There are several taxi contacts on the walkways website, or you can ask for help at the ticket office to call a taxi.
Between Videmonte and the Dam, the cost of a taxi should be between 20 and 25 euros.
How much does it cost to do the Mondego Walkways?
As we mentioned above, the walkways will cost 1 Euro per person, but at least until the end of February, the ticket is free.
In any case, it is always necessary to buy/book the ticket on the website. They do not sell tickets at the entrance control booths; they only confirm and validate entries. When purchasing the ticket, you must define the day and the entry period (morning or afternoon).
It is also important to note that there is a limit of 3000 people per morning/afternoon.
Best time to do the Mondego walkways
In our opinion, the best time of the year to do the Mondego walkways is spring and autumn, as that is when we can expect more pleasant temperatures with less chance of rain.
Walking the Mondego Walkways during the summer may be tempting, but be aware that it will be very hot. Much of the route has no shadows, so it will be a very tough walk.
During the winter, beware of cold, snow, and ice. We did these walkways in winter, and it was wonderful, but it was a spectacular day, with exceptional sunshine, as you can see in the photos.
Who can do this hike?
To do the full route, you need some stamina and be used to long walks. After all, it takes 4 or 5 hours to walk the entire route along the Mondego footbridges.
However, no one is obliged to do the full route. If you have children or people less used to walking, you can, for example, start in Videmonte and go back when you finish the first section of walkways.
Or, start in Videmonte and go as far as Vila Soeiro. It’s still 9 km, but it’s practically downhill and avoids the final ascent of the Caldeirão dam stairs. Finally, and if you just want to take a short walk, you can just go down the steps of the dam and then return. There’s a nice waterfall halfway.
Thus, there are options for all types of walkers, from those who prefer long and challenging routes to those who just want to take a walk through nature without great physical exertion.
What to take to the Mondego walkways?
Despite being immersed in the mountains, the walkways make our life much easier, so you don’t need any specific equipment. We only advise you to bring the following:
- Plenty of water (at least 1l per person, but in summer, take much more);
- Snacks/lunch to eat along the walk; There are no cafes or any way to buy water or food along the route;
- Comfortable walking shoes;
- Comfortable clothes;
- Swimwear, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen in summer;
- Warm clothing in winter. Don’t forget that in the mountains, the weather changes very quickly;
- Camera and cell phone, as there are many opportunities to take beautiful pictures. Cell phones also to be used as a GPS;
- Small backpack to carry all this;
How to go to the Mondego walkways?
As we have mentioned several times, there are two main entrances to the Mondego walkways, one in Videmonte and the other in Barragem do Caldeirão. There is also an entrance halfway through the route in Vila Soeiro for those who don’t want to do all the walkways.
However, the only way to reach these entrances is by car. We are unaware of the existence of transfer services or public transport to either access.
To get to the entrances, the ideal is to go to Guarda (the largest city in the region) and from there to the entrances. It’s about 25 minutes to Videmonte and 20 minutes to the Dam.
From Porto, it takes about 2 hours, while from Lisbon, it takes almost three and a half hours. Therefore, we suggest that you stay in Guarda and take the opportunity to visit this beautiful but often overlooked city in Portugal.
An important note for weekends and high season: There are many more parking spaces in Videmonte than next to the Caldeirão dam.
Where to stay when you do the Mondego Walkways?
As we mentioned, the ideal is to stay in Guarda or Serra da Estrela, as despite the good accesses, the walkways are quite far from most Portuguese cities and especially from the coastal area.
So, in Guarda, we have two suggestions for you. If you want to stay in a hotel, we recommend the Hotel Lusitânia Congress and Spa. This is a beautiful hotel with a swimming pool and SPA, which is extremely pleasant to relax after walking for several hours along the banks of the Mondego. See prices and availability here.
If you are traveling with your family or in a group, we suggest the Cold City House apartment. It is right in the center of Guarda, has excellent conditions and is ideal if you want to take the opportunity also to visit the city. Mrs. Lurdes is also extremely friendly and makes the stay even more pleasant. Book ahead here as it usually becomes unavailable quickly.
Finally, another suggestion is to stay directly in the village of Videmonte. So you can start or end right next to the walkways and take the opportunity to visit this friendly village in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. Videmonte has several excellent typical lodgings, such as Casa Retiro de Xisto, Casa de Xisto Santo António, and Casa do Chefe.