How To Visit Rio’s Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain)
Published November 29, 2020
If you’re planning a trip to Rio de Janeiro, you can’t miss a visit to the world famous Pão de Açúcar, or Sugarloaf Mountain. This huge, dome-shaped mountain right next to the ocean is the second-most famous attraction in the city (the first being Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer).
Pão de Açúcar is next to a shorter peak called Morro da Urca, and together, these two iconic mountains form not only a symbol of Rio, but a national symbol of Brazil. Although there are technically options to hike and climb up both, the vast majority of people visit both peaks via a cable car that connects them with street level. This blog post will focus on that, so let’s dive right in!
How to Get to Pão de Açúcar
Let’s start by answering the most common question visitors have: where do you need to go to visit Pão de Açúcar? The answer is the terminal station for the cable car, known in Portuguese as the “Bondinho” (pronounced ‘bon-JIN-yo’). This is located in the neighborhood of Urca, which happens to be my favorite neighborhood in Rio. If you have time, you should definitely explore the surrounding area. If you’re curious about that, check out my other blog post using the image link below!
You could walk to the Bondinho from the nearest metro station, Botafogo, but I imagine most tourists would probably prefer to take an Uber directly there. In my experience, using Uber in Brazil is easy and safe. You shouldn’t run into any problems as going from anywhere in the south side of the city where the main beaches are to Urca shouldn’t take you through any rough areas.
Once you arrive at the Bondinho station, you’ll find yourself next to a small beach called Praia Vermelha. This is a great place to check out before or after you visit Sugarloaf Mountain. Despite being small and quiet, it rivals some of the most famous beaches in the city like Copacabana and Ipanema.
What to Expect
The first thing you’ll need to do is purchase cable car tickets. As of November 2020, the price for the cable car is 120 BRL per adult (approx. 23 USD). I recommend going during the workweek to avoid larger crowds. Under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t need to book tickets in advance.
The cable car system consists of four separate rides: one trip up to Morro da Urca, a second leg from there up to the Sugarloaf peak, and two return trips. Each ride only lasts about two or three minutes. Needless to say, anyone with a strong fear of heights may want to reconsider visiting Pão de Açúcar. However, as far as cable cars go, this one is quick and smooth.
There is a fairly large outdoor observation area at the top of Morro da Urca. You have to disembark here and walk a short distance to get to the second cable car that goes to Pão de Açúcar. From this midpoint stop, the view of the city is already stunning.
Keep in mind that Morro da Urca is only about half the height of Sugarloaf, so there’s more to see! The second cable car will take you from one peak to the next. Don’t throw away your ticket, as you need to scan it for the second part of the trip as well as the rides back down!
If the views from Morro da Urca are impressive, what you can see from the top of Pão de Açúcar will leave you speechless. Not only can you see almost all of Rio, but you’ll also have a great view of Guanabara Bay to the north and parts of Niterói to the east.
As you might expect, I highly recommend visiting Sugarloaf Mountain on a clear day if possible. Because of all the mountains, Rio is often covered by low-lying clouds, and it probably wouldn’t be worth it to go up on an overcast day.
Both outdoor observation decks at Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar have restaurants and gift shops, but expect average food at inflated prices. I personally recommend eating before or after and only getting a drink or a snack at the top if you want to.
Go twice if you can!
Here’s a piece of advice if you’re going to be in Rio for more than a few days: try and visit Pão de Açúcar twice! That’s because the view during the day is totally different from what you’ll see at dusk, and you won’t want to miss watching the city slowly light up after the sun goes down!
A Note on COVID-19
As of right now (November 2020), the Bondinho is open, although it may not be open every day of the week. In terms of COVID-19, most of the time will be spent outdoors. Masks are required. The most densely-packed part of the trip is the cable car, although each of the four rides only lasts about three minutes. The cable car pod also has some windows that can be opened, so there’s somewhat of a breeze that goes through.
In my opinion, visiting the Pão de Açúcar should be a relatively low-risk activity. During my two visits, I never witnessed anyone violating the mask mandate, but I imagine that if someone did, especially inside the cable car, staff would intervene.
Where to Stay
If you’re curious about where to stay in Rio, a visit to Pão de Açúcar shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Despite being just a little bit out of the way, Sugarloaf Mountain is pretty centrally located. I personally recommend that visitors either stay in Copacabana or Ipanema, as these are the two largest beach areas. They are safe and well-connected to other parts of the city via the metro system and city buses, and both are a short (20-30 minute) drive to Pão de Açúcar.
If you’d like to check out some Airbnbs in Rio or anywhere else in the world, feel free to use the widget below!
Enjoy Your Visit!
I hope this blog post was helpful if you’re planning a visit to Pão de Açúcar! There’s a reason this attraction is world-famous, and I don’t think any other city in the world has panoramic views quite like this. Pão de Açúcar exemplifies what makes Rio such an amazing city: a stunning intersection of white-sand beaches, deep blue oceans, green and grey mountains, bustling cityscapes. At this point, I’ve already lived here for over two months and I’m still discovering new things every day!
Have you taken the Bondinho up to the Pão de Açúcar before? Do you have any questions I didn’t answer above? Leave a comment below and let me know! And if you want to stay up to date on blog posts, follow Caffeinated Excursions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest! Cheers and have a great day!
This post was published on Nov 29, 2020