Riding the Sugarloaf cable car is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a popular tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And it’s on every must-see list for good reason. You’d be truly remiss not to take in this star attraction. But if you’re scared of heights like I am, you’re probably wondering how you’ll survive the ride up. Well, this is a comprehensive overview of what you can expect.
Let’s start with the basics. To get to the top of Sugarloaf, you need to take a cable car. In fact, you’ll need to take two. The first one takes you to Morro da Urca. Here, you’ll board a second cable car to reach the summit of Sugarloaf. From a distance, the voyage looks daunting, to say the least. For someone like me who thinks climbing up the first rung of a ladder is a death-defying feat, the Sugarloaf cable car seems like an impossible adventure. But it’s not. I promise. You can do this.
I feel I can say with some authority, such fears are completely unfounded—you’re just making a mountain out of a molehill (see what I did there?). And this is coming from the person who shook with fear riding the glass elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
So, what’s it really like, you ask? Here’s a comprehensive overview of what it’s like to ride the Sugarloaf cable car.
Each glass-walled car holds 65 people. It’s supported by two cables, and in it’s entire history, not a single car has ever fallen from the sky. You are safe. If you’re unsure about staring out the window on the ride up, simply stand in the center of the car, and you’ll barely notice you’re even moving.
Getting On Board
You know how Ferris wheels and ski lifts keep on moving while you’re trying to get on? It’s a constant race against time. Well, the Sugarloaf cable car is nothing like that. The massive unit firmly stops alongside the loading dock, and you have plenty of time to step inside. There is a small gap between the dock and the ground, but nothing too crazy. I even saw someone push a stroller across it.
As I mentioned before, you need to take two cable cars to get to the top of Sugarloaf. Each one takes only three minutes, for a total of six minutes to the top. Honestly, it goes by so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it. There is no movement in the cars, even if people are walking around inside. They are completely stable and akin to an elevator ride. It doesn’t even feel like you’re moving at all, and the next thing you know, the doors are opening, and it’s time to get off.
When I got in the first car leading to Morro da Urca, I immediately walked to the back, where I got a spot right next to the window. Sounds great, right? Not so much…the only thing I could see for the whole ride up was the rock face of Morro da Urca. If you want to get a good view of the landscape below, stay near the front or sides of the car. For the ride to Sugarloaf, I got a spot at the very front of the car, and the view was amazing. To my great surprise, I wasn’t the least bit anxious.
Food and Shopping
There are quite a few places to eat and shop at the top of both Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf. Everyone is always in a rush to get to the top, but before boarding the second cable car, take a look around Morro da Urca. There is a lovely garden walk—in fact, if you really wanted, you could walk all the way back down the mountain from here. There is also a cafe, a few shops, and a few fast-food joints.
You’ll have another chance to grab a bit to eat overlooking the world at the top of Sugarloaf, as well as take in some souvenir shopping. There is a lovely boutique featuring locally crafted goods, as well as Sugarloaf logo merchandise. But this is not your average kitschy souvenir shop. It’s got some really beautiful artwork and unique gifts. Be sure to check it out.
View From the Top
Let’s talk about he real reason you rode up the Sugarloaf cable car—the views. Oh my goodness, the views. They’re truly stunning from both Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf. Be sure to take time to soak it all in. I happened to be there at sunset, and the sun was hanging low in the sky over Corcovado, surrounding Christ the Redeemer in a golden halo.
Time to Explore
You’ve likely heard stories of people waiting in line for hours just to get on the first cable car. And this may be the case in peak season. I happened to be there just slightly off-season, and my tour group basically walked right on. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour total at Sugarloaf, including the 12-minute return trip on the cable car. I felt like I had plenty of time to take it all in and could have even enjoyed a quick coffee if I’d wanted. Instead, I decided to do a Facebook Live update since I was able to get a solid wi-fi connection at the top.
If you’re worried about time, you can also purchase a skip-the-line pass, but it will only guarantee entry onto the first cable car. There are also plenty of tour options to help you manage your time on Sugarloaf—highly recommended to ensure you maximize your time and fun.