Whether you’re on weekend break or a longer trip to Rio, at some point a visit to the Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar in Portuguese) will definitely crop up in any itinerary. It’s a typical tourist destination yet with good reason – the views at the top are breathtaking and the whole journey to the top is an adventure in itself. Getting there is straightforward and can be mostly done without a guide; in any instances where a guide is highly recommended (such as rock climbing to the top), I’ve recommended reputable companies below. So without further ado, here is everything you need to know about going to the Sugarloaf Mountain.
First, a little bit about Sugarloaf Mountain
The Sugarloaf Mountain is in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood called Urca and is next to a smaller peak known as Morro da Urca – you will need to get to the top of this little peak first before going the rest of the way to the Sugarloaf. Morro da Urca is next to Praia Vermelha which is a small yet charming beach and worth spending a bit of time there soaking up the sun, hiring a canoe, stand-up surf paddling or simply cooling down with a fresh coconut.
- How to get to the top
Personally, I love the hike up Morro da Urca then taking the cable car (or Bondinho as it’s known in Portuguese) the rest of the way. But whichever way you prefer, it’ll be a wonderful experience with plenty of jaw-dropping views. There are three ways to get there:
1 – Cable Cars
The cable cars leave the ground station next to Praia Vermelha and amble up to Morro da Urca. From there, you can take another cable cart to the Sugarloaf. There is no rush though – once you are at Morro da Urca, you can stop to take advantage of some of the refreshments such as the restaurants and snack bars (or the bar for a caipirinha should you need a little extra courage the second leg!) before boarding the second cable car to the Sugarloaf mountain. Each stage of the cable car takes just three minutes and the cable cars depart every 20 minutes.
Ticket Office: 08:00 – 19:50
Gate to access the hike closes at 18:00 during the winter and 19:00 during the summer
First journey Praia Vermelha to Morro da Urca – 08:10
The first journey Morro da Urca to Sugarloaf – 08:20
The last journey from Praia Vermelha to Morro da Urca – 20:00
The last journey from Morro da Urca to Sugarloaf – 20:20
The last journey from Sugarloaf to Morro da Urca – 20:40
The last journey from Morro da Urca to Praia Vermelha – 21:00
Adults – R$76
Children under 6 years old – free
Children 6 to 12 years old – R$38
Young adults 13 to 21 years old – R$38
Adults 60 years old or more receive a 50% discount on the adult price (so, R$38 basically)
People with a disability also pay just R$38
Students whether Brazilian or foreign also pay R$38 (remember your student documents though!)
Prices if you combine the hike and the cable cart:
If you hike to the top of Morro da Urca and then take the cable car back down to Praia Vermelha the price is R$20 for full price or R$10 for half price (like students, children etc)
If you hike to the top of Morro da Urca and then take the cable car to the Sugarloaf and back to Morro da Urca, the price is R$40 for full price or R$20 for half price. Then, you would have to buy the ticket above to get from Morro da Urca to Praia Vermelha, or you could just hike back down.
It’s a good idea to bring some ID to show your age in case you’re asked. The official website states to bring an original copy but I’ve never heard of a photocopy not being accepted as long as the quality is good. You can buy the tickets online or at the ticket centers next to Praia Vermelha beach.
Note: You can only buy tickets in these two places, so be careful if you hike to Morro da Urca and want to get a cable car back down – you will have to get a ticket at the bottom first (lesson learned from personal experience!). Debit card, credit card, and cash are all accepted.
2 – Hike
The hike follows a trail that starts at the base point of Morro da Urca and winds its way to the top of the hill. From the top, you can either hike back down or take the cable car (make sure to buy it at the bottom first!). The hike is safe, relatively easy and can be done alone – ignore any companies that charge extortionate amounts to take you up the Morro da Urca trail, it really is perfectly fine to do by yourself or in a group. There are plenty of other hikers on the route so you don’t feel alone.
The start of the hike is to the left-hand side of Praia Vermelha beach (if you were facing the ocean) and takes you through a gate along a concrete path before leading you to the well-developed path that cuts through the Atlantic forest. The hike from bottom to top is quite steep in places and takes about 30 minutes. I would recommend taking a little something to eat and water, but should you forget there are plenty of restaurants, bathrooms and drinking fountains at the top. Keep an eye out for wildlife en route such as the adorable marmosets.
3 – Mountain Climbing
One for the more adventurous! I haven’t done it – yet. But I would love to. If you go, please comment on your experiences below, I would love to hear all about it! While Morro da Urca is possible to leisurely hike to the top, the Sugarloaf mountain is only accessible by cable car or actually climbing which takes between 90 minutes and two hours depending on the level of difficulty. This is something I would recommend to do with a tour guide. I’ve recommended three below.
The guides recommend that you have a little bit of experience to climb the Sugarloaf as some climbing routes are tough going. Yet if you are super keen and have no experience, then you can try the Costão route which is still a challenge but better for beginners. For the more experienced climbers, the
Here are some reputable climbing tours that will safely guide you up the Sugarloaf alongside their seasoned experts. They also have English-speaking staff too: Companhia da Escalada, Rio Adventures, Climb in Rio.
When to Go
The mornings are a good time to go to avoid the afternoon crowds that reach peak numbers on weekends and holiday periods, especially around Christmas, New Year and Carnival. The afternoon during the summer can reach immense temperatures so be prepared with sun-cream and plenty of water, especially if you hike the way up. Avoid cloudy days too – the view may be disappointing.
The most rewarding time to go is at sunset on a clear, sunny day. Watch the sun dip behind the horizon and take in the city’s major landmarks, such as Corcovado
As well as the panoramic view of Rio de Janeiro from the top of the Sugarloaf mountain, there are several other surrounding and nearby attraction.
Praia Vermelha. As I’ve mentioned, the beach at the base of Morro da Urca is tucked in between two rock sides that are covered in exotic vegetation that
Morro da Urca. The top of the hill has several restaurants and drinking options as well as fashion stores such as Havaianas and H.Stern
Helicopter ride. The helicopter ride is undeniably expensive but gives a beautiful aerial view over the city including many landmarks depending on how long you take the tour for. The helicopter leaves the Sugarloaf helipad (which is on Morro da Urca) and can be booked online or at the helipad point itself. The itineraries vary and prices start from R$320 for 6 to 7 minutes all the way up to R$1,860 for one hour.
Helisight is a good company to book with multi-lingual staff and years of experience.
Bar Urca. One of
Monday – Friday: 06:30 – 23:00
Saturday: 08:00 – 23:00
Sunday: 08:00 – 20:00
How to Get to Uber
Uber or taxi are the easiest ways to get to Urca – just ask to go to Praia Vermelha
To take a bus from Copacabana, the 581, 583 and 104 go in the Urca direction, just the latter you need to be careful to get off just after the bus passes Shopping Rio Sul and continue by turning right and walking in a straight line to Praia Vermelha. From Central, you can take the 107 that will go straight to the Sugarloaf (yet I understand that most visitors will be staying in the south zone of the city).
To take the subway, go to Metro Botafogo and take the connecting bus 583 that will take you straight to the Sugarloaf.
Have I missed any key points that you would really like to know? Or do you have any experiences of going there that you would like to share? If so, leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch!
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