How to Travel to Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain
The famous beaches of Rio de Janeiro are surrounded by mountains. On one side stands Mount Corcovado, most well known for its 30-foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer standing guard over the city. On the other side is Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).
Rising a quarter mile into the air, Sugarloaf Mountain offers birds-eye views of Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio. Here’s how to visit this famous spot:
When to Go:
Sugarloaf Mountain is open year-round, but whenever you plan to visit, expect some lines as it’s one of the most popular spots in Rio. If you want to avoid the heat of the day, head up either early in the morning (first car leaves at 8 a.m.) or after 4 p.m. If possible, time your arrival for sunset.
What to Bring:
Water, sunblock, camera.
Where to Start:
The cable cars that take visitors to the top of Sugarloaf leave from Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), one of Rio’s residential areas noted for its eclectic architectural mix and beautifully landscaped gardens. It’s a great place to take a stroll before or after your trip up Sugarloaf.
Tickets to Sugarloaf are sold at the cable car station located on Avenida Pasteur on Praia Vermelha (Red Beach). The entrance fee includes roundtrip service on both cable cars. The cable car service runs between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., leaving every 20 minutes or so. The last cable car to the top of Sugarloaf leaves at 7:50 p.m.
Be sure to keep your tickets handy as you will need to show them entering each car up and down from the mountain (that’s four times).
The ride to the top of Sugarloaf is divided into two sections. The first takes you to the top of Urca Mountain where a second car takes you to the top of Sugarloaf.
After you buy your ticket, get in line for the tram. While there are no (or few) seats, the ride takes only three minutes. The first leg will take you to Urca Mountain, which is one kilometer up and offers incredible aerial views of the bay, Copacabana beach, and the Christ the Redeemer statue.
The second cable car will take you to the top of Sugarloaf, which offers 360-degree views of the area surrounding Rio.
Where to Eat:
The food options on Sugarloaf are not particularly noteworthy, but if you’re looking for a snack, a soft drink, or a Caipirinha to enjoy while surveying the view, there are a few choices. On both Urca and Sugarloaf, there are a few fast food options, as well as vendors selling ice cream and drinks. When you eat, beware of feeding the monkeys. They are cute, but can get aggressive when offer your ice cream!
What to Buy:
Both Urca and Sugarloaf have souvenir shops filled with Brazilian tchotchkes and postcards. Urca also has a Havaianas store for all your flip-flop needs.
If you enjoy a good hike and want to avoid the crowding into a cable car, it’s possible to walk up Urca mountain, which will take you halfway to Sugarloaf. It’s approximately a 25-minute hike through the jungle and is a moderately easy walk. The trailhead is located in the forest off a path between Praia Vermelha and Sugarloaf. Once on Urca, purchase a tram ticket to the top of Sugarloaf to finish the ascent.
The truly adventurous can sign up to climb Sugarloaf, but it’s only recommended for those with a lot of rock climbing experience, their own gear, and an experienced guide who can help navigate the many complex, interwoven trails that lead up the mountain.
For those interested in more of a stroll than a mountain climb, there are a number of short trails leading from Urca Mountain through the jungle to observation points that overlook the hills and beaches.