Sensational Sights from Sugarloaf Mountain

View of Sugarloaf Mountain from Corcovado Mountain

While on the face of it, a visit to Brazil may seem an impractical choice for travel on a time budget, as part of a short trip to South America, that’s what this was for me.  I’d wanted to go for a long time, but didn’t have the time for an extensive, multi-week trip around the continent, so opted for a four-night stay in Rio de Janeiro, part of a nine-night trip that also included Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

We arrived after an early morning flight from Montevideo and were shattered.  However, when we were dropped at our hotel overlooking Copacabana beach, all our tiredness evaporated as the wow factor of this buzzing and vibrant city took over.

The list of things to do in Rio are endless and can cater for every taste; however, my lasting memory will without doubt be our trip up Sugar Loaf Mountain.  It’s one of the must-dos in Rio, partly because of the experience itself and partly because of the views you get when you’ve arrived at the summit.

I have to admit that while this was on my list, my research prior to going made me shudder at the thought.  At just shy of 1,300 feet (and not being a fan of heights), and involving a trip on two cable cars each way, it fell into the category of things “I-really-should-do-but really-don’t-want-to-do”.  I therefore procrastinated for the three days of our trip, convincing myself that I wouldn’t be missing out if I didn’t go (after all, there’s so many other things to do in Rio), before finally taking a deep breath and catching a taxi to the base terminal on the day we were due to fly home.

My nerves didn’t abate even when we queuing for the car, but I really needn’t have worried.  The cars are large and sturdy and the ascent only lasts for six minutes in total.  The fact that each car can hold up to 65 people and they run every 20 minutes means than millions of people safely take this trip every year.

The trip is divided into two parts: the first three minute ascent takes you up to Morra da Urca (Urca Hill) before going on further to the mountain.  After the first leg, you get off and there’s a surprisingly large panoramic terrace here where you can walk around and take in the stunning views of Guanabara bay: the tiny islands dotted around in the bay, the beaches below, and on one side you can see the Christ the Redeemer statue majestically keeping watch over the city from the top of the Corcavado Mountain.  At this point you’re so high that even the high-rise buildings of central Rio look small and insignificant in comparison to the natural beauty surrounding it.  There are lots of places to stop off at on this first station – various cafes and eateries and souvenir shops to browse in.  There’s also a swish cocktail bar and restaurant here that would be a fantastic place to visit at sunset with its views over the city: try one of ubiquitous (and very, very strong!) caipirinhas that you can develop a taste for in Rio.

Sugarloaf Mountain

When you’re ready you can get in line to take the cable car to the higher section of Sugarloaf Mountain.  This second leg is equally quick, but the ascent becomes much steeper as you approach the actual mountain. But this just means that you are presented with even more stunning and wide reaching views once you reach the top. There’s also a terrace here, smaller and bit windier than that on the hill below, but big enough to make it worth spending a bit of time here and savouring your chance to experience one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions.

When we eventually took the cable car back down the mountain, we took our final opportunity to take in the amazing city that is Rio.  I was amazed (and quite proud!) that I’d actually managed to do this trip and would recommend it to anyone, even those with a fear of heights or who are not fans of cable cars.

I was told before I went that I’d find it hard to think of many views that are better than this one, and that’s so true: give it a go – you won’t regret it.

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