Sensational sights from the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car: questions you might need answered

A view of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the surrounding bay
Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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 on the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car.  

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 on the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car.

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How do I go up Sugarloaf Mountain?

You ascend the mountain by way of the Sugarloaf Mountain 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! 

How do I get to the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car?

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

You can get buses to the mountain: 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 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.  

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.  

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

There are also tours that will include a trip up the mountain, as well as other sights in the city: ideal if you are short on time.

This tour combines Sugarloaf Mountain with a visit to the Christ the Redeemer statue, another must see sight in Rio. It also includes a visit to the Selaron Steps, as well as lunch.

This tour takes you to six of the main sights in Rio, including Sugarloaf Mountain.

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

The Sugarloaf Mountain cable car
The Sugarloaf Mountain cable car

If you are a bit worried, be reassured that the Sugarloaf Mountain 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 Mountain 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 the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car
View from the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car

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.  

The Christ the Redeemer statue on top of a hill in Rio De Janeiro overlooking Sugarloaf Mountain
The Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro

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.

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.   

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.  This second leg is equally quick, but the ascent becomes much steeper as you approach the actual mountain. 

The cable car going to the second station of 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. You can spend time savouring your experience at one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions.

Is Sugarloaf Mountain accessible to everyone?

A visit to Sugarloaf Mountain should be accessible for all.  There are ramps, elevators and adapted toilets.

Overall, is it worth making the effort to take a ride on the Sugarloaf Mountain cable car?

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.

Book your ticket here.

Other ideas for short trips

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