The Sugarloaf cable car in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has received over 37 million visitors since it opened in 1912. Cable cars run every 30 minutes or when the car is full.
The ride is divided into two stages, each lasting three minutes. The first stage goes from Praia Vermelha (Red Beach) to Morro da Urca (Urca Hill) at an altitude of 220 meters or about 240 yards. The second stage goes from Morro da Urca to Sugarloaf Mountain at an altitude of 528 meters or about 577 yards. Cable car speed varies from 21 to 31 kilometers per hour. Each car holds 65 passengers.
Originally designed by Brazilian engineer Augusto Ferreira Ramos, one of the founders of Companhia Caminho Aéreo Pão de Açúcar, the cable car system was completely renewed in 1972. The cables were changed again in 2002 and the electronic operating system was updated in May 2009. New cable cars with an upgraded ventilation system and tinted, anti-glare glass were installed in 2008 for the ride between Praia Vermelha and Urca. The Morro da Urca-Sugarloaf stretch got four new cars in the second phase of the renovations, imported from Switzerland for about 3 million euros.
The Sugarloaf cable car system is considered one of the safest in the world.
The 360-degree view you'll enjoy during the ride and from the top of Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf Mountain encompass the Rio beaches—Flamengo, Botafogo, Leme, Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon—as well as the Corcovado, Guanabara Bay, downtown Rio, the Santos Dumont Airport, the Rio-Niterói Bridge and Dedo de Deus (God's Finger), a peak that rises from Brazil's coastal range (Serra do Mar) in Teresópolis, about 50 miles from Rio.
The Tourist Complex at Morro da Urca
Composed of three areas, the tourist complex at Morro da Urca hosts events as diverse as New Year's Eve celebrations, festivals, shows and wedding receptions. The amphitheater is covered by a retractable roof and has a stage, grandstands, and a dance floor. The Disks, a covered area with three round platforms, and the garden, with sweeping views of Guanabara Bay and Sugarloaf, complete the entertainment area. The complex accommodates up to 2,500 people in all.
Shops and Food
Pão de Açúcar shops at Praia Vermelha, Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf all sell souvenirs. You can buy jewelry at H. Stern on Morro da Urca or at Amsterdam Sauer on Sugarloaf.
Bar Abençoado (its name means "blessed" and this no doubt has everything to do with the view) serves great caipirinhas made from its own cachaça brand, as well as appetizers and a different version of escondidinho, a type of meat and manioc casserole, made here with a mix of pureed arracacha and yams.
You can have coffee, sandwiches and other snacks at the top of Sugarloaf at Pão de Açúcar Gourmet with its outdoor tables and benches for grand views.
Things to Know
- The Sugarloaf complex is accessible for strollers, wheelchairs, walkers and those with limited mobility. There are elevators and ramps. Wheelchair accessible restrooms are available at Morro da Urca and the Sugarloaf.
- Helisight, a company offering helicopter tours of Rio de Janeiro, has a station at Morro da Urca.
How to Get There
The address is Avenida Pasteur 520, Urca. You can take a taxi which is the easiest way. You can also take the Metro (subway) up to the Botafogo station and walk to the cable car entrance. The cheapest way to get there is by bus. The 511 (look for the sign “Ataulfo de Paiva”) and the 512 (sign will say “Bartholomeu Mitre”) can both get you there. You will pay as you board the bus (cash only and no change will be given).
Tickets for the cable car can be purchased online and you'll receive a 10 percent discount. A 50 percent discount is given to seniors from 60 years old, people with disabilities, students, and people from 13 to 21 years old. If you purchase at the cable car, the ticket office opens at 7:30 a.m. and closes at 7:50 p.m. The complex is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tickets are valid for the round trip to the top of Sugarloaf. Hold on to your ticket and present it when you board the cable car at Morro da Urca.
The cost of the ticket depends on the level of service you decide on. For the basic cable car ride ticket, (priced January 2019), the cost at the ticket office is 110 Brazilian Reals (approximately $29.50 USD). Prices online are 10 percent less. If you want to go the luxury route, select the "Golden Ticket," which includes a reception with a glass of sparkling wine in an air-conditioned lounge, boarding with no line at the first station and VIP access at other stations. The cost for that ticket purchased at the ticket office (priced January 2019) is 205 Brazilian Reals (approximately $55 USD).