Visiting Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro | A Complete Guide — ALONG DUSTY ROADS (2024)

Along with perfect beaches and perfect bodies, carnival and caipirinhas, Sugarloaf mountain (also known as Pão de Açúcar) remains one of Rio's most enduring symbols - and deservedly so.

Standing at nearly 1,300 feet, the huge domed-shaped mountain towers over the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, the mouth of Guanabara Bay, the Tijuca Forest and the equally iconic Christ the Redeemer.

It's what you'll be struck by most if you are fortunate enough to fly into Rio, and its profile (alongside Morro da Urca, the smaller mountain at its feet) graces postcards, posters, books and tourist marketing the world over.

Quite simply, if you are spending even just a short while in Brazil's most famous city (remember, it ain’t the capital), you have to take the cable car to its peak to savour one of the best views available in the whole country.

In this guide we've covered absolutely everything you need to know before you visit, including how to get there, how to get up it, where to buy tickets and helpful tips and tricks. If you’re keen on visiting as part of a tour - like this one - scroll to the bottom for our personal selection of the best rated.

This is our complete guide to visiting Sugarloaf Mountain.

How to Get to There

Sugarloaf Moutain is located in the neighbourhood of Urca, right by Praia Vermelha, easily accessible from anywhere in the city. You can find the cable car station/ticket office here on Google Maps.

To access it, you have three options:

Taxi | Uber or a regular taxi are by the far the easiest ways to access the start point for Sugarloaf Mountain. For many concerned about security in Rio de Janeiro, they're also the safest.

Bus | If you're staying in Copacabana or Ipanema, jump on Bus 511, 581, 583, or 104 heading in the direction of Urca. This will drop you a three-minute walk from the cable car ticket office. Journey time from Copacabana is around 10 minutes.

Metro | The nearest metro station to the cable car station is 'Botafogo' (maps), however this will require a 35-minute walk which we appreciate not everyone will feel comfortable doing. Alternatively, you could connect to Bus 583 outside the metro which will bring you directly to Sugarloaf.

How to Reach the Top of Sugarloaf Mountain

Cable Car Only

The easiest way to access Sugarloaf - and indeed the most popular - is via a series of two separate cable car journeys: the first to Morro da Urca, the second up to Pão de Açúcar.

You will have to walk a short distance between two stations to change cable cars but it's very straightforward. Each cable car takes three minutes, and there are departures every 20 minutes.

Unless you're in a rush, upon reaching Morro da Urca we'd recommend taking some time to have a wander around and enjoy the views from the observation platform. Yes, they're not quite as good as those from Sugarloaf, but they're still pretty impressive!

A return journey costs R$185 (US$36) and this can either be bought in advance online or upon arriving at the ticket office.

Alternatively, you can buy a skip-the-line fast pass - it costs a little more, but could be preferable if you’re visiting during peak times or on a tight schedule.

The opening times are as follows:

Monday to Thursday, 9am to 8pm, withlast cable car boarding at 6.30pm

Friday to Sunday, 8am to 9pm, withlast cable car boarding at 7.30pm

Hike & Cable Car

If you're a little more adventurous or on a tighter budget, we imagine some of you may be wondering if there's any way to hike to the top of Sugarloaf?

Well this answer is... sort of.

What we mean is you can hike halfway - specifically along a trail that ends atop the smaller mountain that sits below, called Morro da Urca. From there, you will join the rest of the crowds to take the cable car up to Pão de Açúcar.

This is a popular jogging trail for locals, beginning at the north of Praia Vermelha (maps), and, is well sign-posted and takes you along the coast before dipping in to a lush forested area.

If you choose this option, please note that there are lots of marmoset monkeys in the forested section and you should absolutely not, under any circ*mstances feed them or interact with them. Firstly, they are wild animals, and secondly, they are not actually native to the area and are causing all sorts of issues to the indigenous wildlife population - feeding them only encourages them to remain.

The hike itself is relatively easy and should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. It's perfectly possible to do in just trainers but given the temperature and the humidity please be sure to carry enough water with you. Unlike many viewpoint hikes in South America, this one is actually considered very safe (the Urca neighbourhood has a significant military presence).

The trail closes at 6pm in the winter and 7pm in the summer, therefore if you plan on hiking back down it is not possible to enjoy Sugarloaf at sunset.

Travel Tip // You used to be unable to buy a cable car ticket from Morro da Urca to Sugarloaf or Sugarloaf all the way back down from the second cable car station, instead having to purchase it from the main ticket office by Praia Vermelha. However, a lovely reader has commented that he managed to do this fairly recently. If anybody else can confirm this in the comments (along with prices), we’d love to hear from you so we can keep this guide super up to date for future travellers - thanks!

Rock Climbing

On the assumption that most of you won’t be travelling through Brazil or South America more generally with your own rock climbing equipment, this adventurous activity is most commonly done as part of tour.

This popular, small-group three-hour tour has lots of excellent reviews and offers are truly spectacular alternative to the cable car, plus the change to see other viewpoints only possible for those brave enough to take on the rock face!

How Long to Spend at the Top of Sugarloaf?

Honestly, this completely depends upon you.

The first time Emily visited, she spent all afternoon and evening there, getting drunk on overpriced but very strong caiparinhas; when we went back together on a slightly tighter schedule, we hung around for a couple of hours.

The good news is that there's no actual time limit for how long you can spend up the top, and you are welcome to jump in any cable car when you're done.

This is particularly beneficial for visitors towrds the end of the day who are keen to experience the incredible views of Rio de Janeiro when the sun is both up, setting and when the city comes alive in a sea of lights.

Amenities at Sugarloaf

Both outdoor observation decks at Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf have a small giftshop, a bar, and the option to buy simple food items.

As one would expect however, the prices are a little on the steep side and the food not terribly great quality. If you're on a budget or plan a longer visit, we'd recommend coming prepared with (non-alcoholic) drinks and some snacks.

There are toilets at both places.

The Best Time to Visit Sugarloaf Mountain

There are four elements to consider when choosing the best time to visit Sugarloaf Mountain: the weather, the crowds, and the views.

First up, the weather. Having visited Rio on three separate occasions, we can happily attest to the fact that this is not always a sunny destination - and for an activity that is all about the view, it's worth holding out for a clear day to head up Sugarloaf to minimise the chances of both Urca and Sugarloaf being shrouded in cloud. As you can see from our photos, there was a pretty decent cloud covering when we visited.

As Rio's second most popular attraction, Sugarloaf gets super busy (insanely busy between 10 am and 3 pm). And whilst there is no real way to completely avoid the crowds, there are certain times of day that see fewer people, namely early in the morning and towards the close of day.

Which brings us on to our final point - the best time to visit for views. Handily, the end of the day not only brings slightly fewer people, but also - and we say that having visited in both the middle of the day and for sunset - the best views, with a golden light that just can't be beat!

Sugarloaf Mountain Tours and Guides

We honestly don't believe you need to take a tour to experience Sugarloaf Mountain.

With that said however, if you'd prefer to have a guide with you for further information, not have to worry about arranging your own transport or combine a visit here with other popular Rio attractions, it may be worth considering.

We can recommend the following highly rated tours:

Full-Day Tour with Christ, Sugarloaf, City Tour and BBQ Lunch | This super popular group tour includes stops at all of Rio's biggest attractions as well as lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse.

Christ the Redeemer Early Access and Sugarloaf | Beat the crowds with this early access tour to Corcovado that includes a visit to Sugarloaf.

Christ the Redeemer, Selarón Stairs & Sugar Loaf Sunset Tour | This highly-rated tour is perfect if you'd prefer to catch the last few golden rays atop Sugarloaf, for the very best views of Rio.

Fast-Pass Ticket and Guided Tour | If you don't fancy waiting in line, consider joining this skip the line, guided tour of Sugarloaf - perfect if you're planning your visit at the busiest time of day.

Sugar Loaf & Corcovado Private Day Tour | This private full-day tour includes a visit to the Christ The Redeemer, Sugarloaf mountain, the Maracanã and Sambódromo stadiums and more.

Plan For Brazil With Our Guides

Visiting Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro | A Complete Guide — ALONG DUSTY ROADS (2024)

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