Tuesday, January 25, 2022

[RIO DE JANEIRO] Sugarloaf Mountain

All this time I thought Christ the Redeemer was also located on the same hill they refer to as Sugarloaf Mountain. Surprise. Apparently, not. What Brazilians refer to as Pão de Açúcar is located in Rio’s Urca district closer to Botafogo and the beaches. Cristo Redentor is at the middle, at the national park of Tijuca. What’s the difference, then? Well, both are high altitude thrills that will give you a sweeping panoramic view of the city. If you can include both in your itinerary, there really is no reason to just choose one.

First, how to get here? Let me begin by expressing my admiration for Uber here in Brazil. Unlike the illegal BS it suffers from in other countries such as Colombia, Uber is perfectly legal in Brazil. While Rio de Janeiro has its own reliable network of buses and metro rail lines, Uber being ubiquitous and cheap means you don’t even have to take public transportation anymore despite them being so conveniently available. Just call an Uber and bask in the comfort of your own private chauffer.

Key in “Bondinho” which is cable car in Portuguese along with “Pão de Açúcar” or “Sugarloaf” in the destination box. Take note that there is a chain of groceries also called Pão de Açúcar so I suggest you go for the English name, lest you want to be taken on a grocery detour. The one-way ride from Copacabana won’t last more than 15 minutes and won’t cost more than BRL15 (~PHP150). If you are short on budget, Uber here also has an Uber Pool option called “Juntos” but it might add more to your travel time as the driver picks up passengers you are sharing the ride with along the way.

You can purchase the cable car and admission fee onsite. Credit cards are widely accepted. If you want to avoid the line, I’d say just buy it online via their official website: https://www.bondinho.com.br/. The return trip, admission price included, is BRL120 (~PHP1,200) which is a bit hefty but worth the price tag considering the experience and gorgeous views waiting for you right there at the top. You get a 50% discount if you are a legal resident of Rio de Janeiro, which you are probably not so never mind.

The Uber will drop you off right at the entrance and everything is self-explanatory after that. You will be seeing the cable cars zipping up and down above you. Make your way to the entrance and on to the flight of stairs leading to the landing. The first ride is going to what they call Morro da Urca, the first of two hills. This can be hiked if you prefer to get some exercise instead of taking the cable car. Don’t ask me how long it will take because I obviously did not take that option.

My legs would have murdered me in my sleep if I did. Morro da Urca gives you a good panoramic view of most of Rio de Janeiro including Copacabana and Cristo Redentor from afar. This is also where you board the helicopter if you opt to shell out some cash for a helicopter tour of the city. The hill also houses some stores and restaurants here and there, including a Havaianas shop, because you are not really in Brazil if there is no Havaianas shop in sight everywhere you look. As always, food here is overpriced. There is also a red heart with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background for that much awaited selfie.

The second cable car ride is alreaady included in your ticket. It takes you to Sugarloaf Mountain itself. Considering its more strategic location, the views here top those on Morro da Urca. You will see the lake and the boats and yachts making their rounds. I believe I also saw Santos Dumont airport and its runway from up there. The beaches are more visible here and the sight offers you a good assessment of how long they actually are. I believe it is on Pão de Açúcar where I captured Copacabana and Cristo Redentor in one frame.

And that’s basically all you can do at Sugarloaf Mountain. Literal sightseeing. As far as I know, there are no paragliding or bungy jumps being offered. If you really want an extreme adventure and you have the moolah, I’d say go for the helicopter tour, which basically lasts less than 10 minutes and starts at BRL450 (~PHP4,500) for the beaches, BRL645 (~PHP6,450) for Christ the Redeemer, and BRL750 (~PHP7,500) for both PER PERSON in one go.

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