What’s it Really Like to Ride the Sugarloaf Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro?

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.

sugarloaf cable car

So, what’s it really like, you ask? Here’s a comprehensive overview of what it’s like to ride the Sugarloaf cable car.

The Cars

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.

sugarloaf cable car

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.

Riding Up

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.

sugarloaf cable car

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.

sugarloaf cable car

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.

18 thoughts on “What’s it Really Like to Ride the Sugarloaf Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro?

  1. This looks like fun! I rode the cable car over the Royal Gorge in Colorado, and I was pretty nervous to think that the only thing saving me from certain death was some cable! The heights I can handle okay. It’s the perceived danger of the apparatus used to get me in high places!

  2. Riding the Sugarloaf cable car would be at the top of my list in Rio. Those views are to die for! I too am not a great lover of heights, but I think the experience would be worth it. Plus, how often do you find yourself in Rio? Might as well take advantage!

    1. I was so thankful it was only 6 minutes, but it felt like even less. You barely notice you’re moving!

  3. I love cable cars! This one sounds amazing! Rio de Janeiro is on our bucket list. The view certainly seems worth it. Not sure if I would stand in a queue for hours though! Off season is really the way to go. 45 minutes seems workable.

    1. Agreed! Hours is a long time to spend, but I got lucky and zipped right to the top without any wait at all. In the peak season, you can buy skip the line passes, too.

  4. I think you can also hike up to the sugar loaf. Anyway, I did it with a tour (I wanted to take the good camera with me so no way to do it alone) and cable car was the only option. Agree with you when you say the views from the top are stunning, I did it at sunset and this added some magic

    1. I believe you’re right about the hike, Elisa. At one point, I went to get a closer look a wee bit down the side of the mountain and realized if I went too far, I would be all the way back down! Sadly, I didn’t have time for it myself, but I would love to hike it someday.

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