Why you Should Visit It

Sugarloaf Mountain houses the first cable car to work in Brazil and the third of its kind to work in the world. That alone would already make paying a visit worth it, as it lets tourists have access to one of the most beautiful vistas in the city. The postcard is one of the most popular in the world and was even featured in a major film. James Bond faces his evil counterpart, Jaws, over these cables in Moonraker (1979).

Sugarloaf Mountain

The vista from Pão de Açúcar is stunning. The Guanabara Bay, the Rio-Niterói bridge, and the Santos Dumond Airport are just a part of the show. The whole shore between Flamengo and Ipanema seizes the public, and tourist attractions like Christ the Redeemer and Pedra da Gávea do so as well. Almost 400 meters high on the mountain, one can have the experience of viewing distant corners, such as Ilha do Governador, Dedo de Deus, and Teresópolis.

People who climb up the cable car hills are met with a top-notch tourist infrastructure. Shops and restaurants offer a wide variety of products and services. The amphitheater became known because it hosted important cultural venues, such as the discotheque Dancing Days, first opened in 1978, and the series of concerts Noites Cariocas, which debuted the following year. The Espaço Baía da Guanabara gathers many kiosks and restaurants in an area with the same pavement pattern as the Copacabana beach sidewalk. The restaurant Cota 200 serves Brazilian food and has the Rio shoreline as its backdrop.

Sugarloaf Mountain Cable Car

Safety is a priority during the cable car operations. Test trips are made every morning and the cable car is controlled by electronic equipment. There are electric generation posts in case of a power outage. The steel cables that move the vehicle have a diameter of 50 millimeters and the clear acrylic and polycarbonate cabin is coated with duralumin.

The tour is divided in two segments; the first is between Praia Veremelha and Morro da Urca, and the is second between Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf Mountain, and they are covered in three minutes. Over 40 million people have made the tour in 103 years of operation.

Past History of Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain is a hill comprised of rocks that originated from granite, which emerged around 600 million years ago. The rock was called Pau-nh-açuquã by the Tamoio Indians, which means a tall, pointy, and isolated hill. The French arrived at the location in 1555 and called it Pot de Beurre, or Butter Pot. The definitive name only came when the Portuguese arrived there in 1565, when the city of Rio was founded by the base of Sugarloaf Mountain because of the bay vista from that area.

The old Cable Car at Sugarloaf Mountain

The idea to create a cable car system in the area started in 1908, when the mountain hosted the National Exhibition. The engineer Augusto Ferreira Ramos gathered some friends and created the Companhia Caminho Aéreo Pão de Açúcar, which received a permit from City Hall to operate on the site in July 30, 1909. The work started in the following year. Brazilian and Portuguese construction workers participated in this work, which used 4 million tons of material imported from Germany. The first trip between Praia Vermelha and Morro da Urca took place on December 27, 1912. The segment that reaches Sugarloaf Mountain, on the other hand, was first opened in January 1913.

Augusto Ramos worked at the company that manages the cable cars until 1934. The industrialist Carlos Monteiro took over the company that year and stayed in the position until 1962. The engineer Cristóvão Leite de Castro became the director in 1962 and performed a modernization of the system. The cabins were redesigned in 1972 by the Italian agency Nardo.

Few people know that the original Sugarloaf Mountain cable car project implied a third segment. It would reach Morro da Urca’s neighbor, Morro da Babilônia, but was not carried out because the area then started to be used by the army. Another interesting story happened during the Brazilian Uprising of 1935, when conflicts between insurgents and legalists at Praia Vermelha hindered cable car operations. The cables were damaged and new units had to be imported from Europe.

Sugarloaf Mountain Today

Cable Car Square at Sugarloaf Mountain

New spaces were added to the tourist complex at Sugarloaf Mountain over the last few years. One of them is Cocoruto, which uses digital projections, tablets, and other objects to tell the story of the cable cars. The place first opened to the public in 2010. The Cable Car Square was first opened the year before and exhibits vehicles that are out of order. Also, there are sculptures that pay homage to Augusto Ramos and Cristóvão Leite for the services provided to the cable cars.

The ticket office of Sugarloaf Mountain is at Praia Vermelha. It’s open daily from 8am to 7:50pm and sells tickets for trips to be made on the same day. If you wish to plan your trip earlier, you can buy a ticket online. It costs R$71 for youth between 6 and 21 years old; students, the elderly, and people with disabilities pay half fare. The Tourist Complex offers a wheelchair access and adapted bathrooms at Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf Mountain. Children under 6 years old have free admission. The cable cars depart once every 20 minutes between 8:10am and 9pm and have a capacity of 65 people. Further information is available by phone at (21) 2546-8400 or at the official website of Sugarloaf Mountain.

The subway is the easiest alternative to get to Sugarloaf Mountain. Botafogo Station has a bus that goes to Praia Vermelha, where the cable car station is located. Other alternatives are taxi cars and Uber. Also, another more complicated alternative is the buses that stop there, but their terminals are reduced. Some of them move around the neighborhoods of Copacabana, Botanic Garden, and Leblon, among a few others. It’s important to note that the area has a parking lot managed by City Hall. Here are some tips on how to move around the city with our Public Transportation Guide.

Sugar Loaf Park is in the neighborhood of Urca, more specifically at Praia Vermelha; however – and unfortunately – while it’s not possible to say so often in Rio, the Urca area is very safe when compared to other neighborhoods in town. This is due to the access to the neighborhood, made through a single road, and due to the presence of military buildings in the area, which is also protected by the Army.

The ideal scenario is to visit the postcard location on sunny days. It’s recommended that visitors wears light clothes and do not forget to wear sunglasses and sunscreen. Sugarloaf Mountain is located at Avenida Pasteur, 520, Urca.

What Nobody Talks About the Sugarloaf Mountain

    • Although Sugarloaf Mountain is one of the most popular postcards in Rio and in the world, some problems regarding it are ignored by tourists because they are not talked about on touristic media made for visitors. But we believe it is important for our tourists to know that the visit to Sugarloaf Mountain has some issues that may ruin their good time. We are not looking to scare any visitors, but to openly talk about matters that are commonly disregarded so our tourists may have a better understanding of the area they’ll go to and can avoid unnecessary risks.
    • Some time of the tour must be set aside for the ticket office queue and for the cable car boarding platform queue, which sometimes takes around an hour each. That’s why it’s worth it to buy your tickets beforehand on the internet.
    • Some times clouds may stop right above Sugarloaf Mountain. In these cases, we do not recommend the tour due to low visibility and cold weather (clouds are cold!).

Warnings about the Urca Mountain track

  • The warnings say: (1) Walk in small groups, five is a good number; (2) The use of shortcuts damages vegetation. Use only the planned trails; (3) Animals, plants and stones are part of this environment. Let them to complete its natural function; (4) Wear sturdy and comfortable clothing. Prefer closed shoes. Take water to drink; (5) Special attention in steep passages and slippery; (6) Careful with fire. Cigarettes should be well off. Bonfires and candles are prohibited; (7) Collect the waste produced. Bring it back and dispose of it in trash cans.
  • There’s a hiking track to Urca mountain, which is the first stop of the tour. Although some Rio citizens claim it’s an easy track, we do not consider it that easy. It has steep slopes, ravines without guardrails and it takes around an hour of hiking to get there. And we openlydo not recommend this adventure for those who do not have experience with this kind of activity. Also, it’s a shame, but we must warn you that some people were robbed on this track, which is another reason why we do not recommend it.

Credits for the used images in this Sugarloaf Mountain article: bondinho.com.br, Carlos Varela, Dirlei Dionísio, Gabi, Nicolas Vollmer e Rodrigo Soldon.