Sensational sights from Sugarloaf Mountain Rio: questions you might need answered

By Emma Marshall

The list of things to do on a holiday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are endless and can cater for every taste.  However, my lasting memory will without doubt be my trip up Sugarloaf Mountain.  

It’s one of the must-dos in Rio.  This is partly because of the experience itself and partly because of the views you enjoy when you’ve arrived at the summit.  Read on for my answers to some questions you might have about a trip up Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio.

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How do I get up Sugarloaf Mountain?

You ascend Sugarloaf Mountain by way of a cable car.  In fact, it is two cable cars as the trip is divided into two parts. 

The first ascent takes you up to Morra da Urca (Urca Hill) at an elevation of over 700 feet. There is then a second leg up to the top of the mountain. 

You can also hike up to Urca Hill. This apparently takes between 30 and 40 minutes and is a lovely hike, where you may even get to see monkeys.   It starts off from the beach at the base of the cable car station (Praia Vermelha or Red Beach).

I, however, chose the easier option! 

A picture of the beach near the station for the cable car to go up Sugarloaf Mountain - you can see the mountain from here
The beach by Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio

How long is the Sugarloaf cable car trip and is it scary?

Picture of the cable car on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio coming into one of its stops
The Sugarloaf Mountain cable car

If you are a bit worried, be reassured that the Sugarloaf cable car trip is only short – six minutes in total – and not at all scary.

I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive beforehand.  While a trip up Sugarloaf Mountain was on my sightseeing list, I am not a fan of heights.  And at just shy of 1,300 feet in total, it fell into the category of things “I-really-should-do-but really-don’t-want-to-do”.  

I therefore procrastinated for the three days of our short trip, convincing myself that I wouldn’t be missing out if I didn’t go.  After all, there’s so many other things to do on a Rio de Janeiro holiday.  But I finally took a deep breath and knew I would regret it if I did not give it a try.

My nerves didn’t abate even when we queuing for the cable car, but I really needn’t have worried.  The cars are large and sturdy and the ascent on the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car only lasts those quick six minutes.  

The journey is also split into two legs of three minutes each. So, if you find you do not like the journey after the first three minutes, you need not go on.

In addition, the fact that each car can hold up to 65 people and they run every 20 minutes means than millions of people safely take this trip every year.

What can I see from Sugarloaf Mountain? 

The first leg of the Sugarloaf cable car trip takes you to Morra da Urca (Urca Hill). When you get off, you will find there’s a surprisingly large panoramic terrace where you can walk around.  

From here you get absolutely stunning views of Guanabara Bay, the second largest bay in Brazil.  You will see tiny islands dotted around in the bay and beaches below.  

At this point of your Sugarloaf Mountain tour, you’re so high that even the high-rise buildings of central Rio look small and insignificant in comparison to the natural beauty surrounding it. 

A view from Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio - looking down into the bay with a beach and high rise buildings
A view from Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio

On one side at this stop, you will also be able to see the Christ the Redeemer statue.  This is another must-do in Rio.  At 38 metres, it stands majestically keeping watch over the city from the top of the Corcovado Mountain.  

A picture of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio
Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio

This is another trip where the journey is almost as spectacular as the destination. 

You can take a cog train upwards through the Tijuca forest to the top of the 2,300 foot high mountain.  From here, you also get a panoramic view of the Guanabara bay and can look back at Sugarloaf mountain.

View of Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio, from the Christ the Redeemer statue

What can I do when I am up Sugarloaf Mountain?

There are lots of places to stop off at on the first station of the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car.   

A picture of the first station stop on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio
The first station stop on Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio

There are a range of cafes, eateries and souvenir shops to browse in. 

There’s also a swish cocktail bar and restaurant that would be a fantastic place to visit at sunset with its views over the city.  Maybe try one of ubiquitous (and very, very strong!) caipirinhas that you can develop a taste for in Rio…

This area also has what is known as Tram Square (Praca dos Bondes).  Here there are two old cable cars that once were in use.  

Taking a quick look at these (as well as at the trajectory of the cable car when it goes up to the second station) is a good way to appreciate the sophisticated engineering that has enabled millions of visitors to experience the mountain since 1912.

Is it also worth going to the second cable car station during my trip?

For some people, going only to the first station will be enough. And if you stop here, do not feel that you have lost out.  The views are absolutely stunning.  In addition, as mentioned above, there are a lot of things to do here to occupy your time.

However, you may want to take the cable car to the higher section of Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio.  This second leg is equally quick, but the ascent becomes much steeper as you approach the actual mountain. 

A picture of the cable car going from the first to the second station on Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio - this is a steeper section
The cable car ascending to the second station on Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio

But this just means that you are presented with even more stunning and wide reaching views once you reach the top. It is a little windier as you go up higher, but you will not regret making the effort.

There’s also a terrace at the summit. It’s smaller than the one on the hill below, but big enough to make it worth spending a bit of time here and savouring the opportunity to experience one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions.

How do I get to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio?

Sugarloaf Mountain is located at Bondinho Pão de Açúcar, near to Praia Vermelha, otherwise known as Red Beach.

You can get buses to the mountain; for example, bus line 107 goes from Copacabana Beach to the Mountain. However, I’d advise getting a taxi (which are not expensive).  This will guarantee that you are dropped at the exact place you want to be.  

You can also book tours on your Rio de Janeiro holiday that will take you to various sites in the city, including Sugarloaf Mountain.  This will eliminate the need to try to reach the ticket office independently (see below for suggestions of tours).  

What are the prices of the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car tickets?

You can buy tickets on the day of your visit at the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car station.  These are 110 Briazilan Reals.  However, if you purchase your tickets online, you can get a 10% discount.  

You can also buy ‘skip the line’ tickets for a similar price to that which you would pay on the day.  See, for example: the Rio de Janeiro: Sugarloaf Cable Car Official Ticket.

For other, varying costs, you can also book an organised tour that will take you on a Sugarloaf Mountain tour in conjunction with seeing other sights in Rio.  

Below is a list of some of the tours you could consider during your Rio de Janeiro holiday:

Is Sugarloaf Mountain accessible to everyone?

A visit to Sugarloaf Mountain should be accessible for all.  Information on a visit here confirms that there are ramps, elevators and adapted toilets.

Overall, is it worth making the effort to go up Sugarloaf Mountain?

Yes, definitely. As I said at the start, I was nervous beforehand as I do not like heights and generally do not like cable cars. 

But this is a trip that is definitely worth making the effort to do and trying to overcome any misgivings you may have.

I was told before I went that I’d find it hard to think of many views that are better than this one. That is very true: give it a go – you won’t regret it.

If you like visiting places with spectacular views, you might also be interested in some of my others posts:

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