By Lacy Edney, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Pão de Açucar (The Sugarloaf) sits impressively between the ocean and the riveting landscape that makes up Rio de Janeiro. One hundred years after its cable car inauguration in 1912, locals and tourists alike still marvel at its unique beauty and spectacular vantage point of the Cidade Maravilhosa.
In 1912, the building a cable car system to reach the top of the Sugarloaf was only the third of its kind in the world. This was perhaps the beginning of Rio de Janeiro’s publicity efforts as a tourist destination.
Sugarloaf was a huge development for national tourism, and since then millions of people have had the chance to enjoy this spectacular panorama of the city. The most high profile promotion of Sugarloaf may have been in the 1979 James Bond film, Moonraker.
The cable car system is composed of two granite peaks that protrude from green foliage. The first hill, Morro da Urca, is 220 meters high, while the second hill, Morro do Pão de Açucar, rises 396 meters above sea level.
To enjoy the high-soaring weightless sensation, visitors ride the gondola from one peak to the next, and each ride takes approximately three minutes. The first cable car to Morro da Urca departs at 8:10 AM, and the last cable car from Morro do Pão de Açucar leaves at 8:40 PM.
The cable cars run every twenty minutes, and hold 65 passengers. The round trip ticket price at the time of writing, is R$53 for adults, R$26 for children (ages six to twelve), and children under age five ride for free.
At the top a view over Rio de Janeiro expands on all sides – starting with Urca below, Guanabara Bay, Niterói, O Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), as well as the surrounding beaches. There are gift shops, cafes and restaurants where visitors can soak in the view and perhaps catch a glimpse of the mico sagui monkeys.
Also, the film “Sugarloaf. A History of Love in Rio.” is shown daily in the amphitheater on Morro da Urca from 9AM to 8PM.
The Sugarloaf is great for hiking and rock climbing. It is fairly easy to hike up the first hill, Morro de Pão de Açucar. The thirty-minute hike begins to the left of Praia Vermelha and continues up through the forest.
It is also possible to take a helicopter tour of the city from the helicopter pad on Morro da Urca, and Helislight offers a variety of routes.
An average tour lasts six to eight minutes, with varying prices depending on the route selected. A helicopter tour of Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, and Copacabana beach costs R$180 per person.
The cable car system for Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf) was an incredible and far-sighted investment to show the unique beauty and charm of the city. Over the last 100 years it has established itself as one of the must-see activities while visiting Rio de Janeiro.