When I was here last year I did not sit in my hotel room working as I have had to do this time around, I actually got up off my bottom and explored the city. When fog nixed my plans for Cristo Redentor, I headed instead to Sugar Loaf Mountain, figuring that I couldn’t leave Rio without seeing it in person.
I hadn’t realised that it is actually two very close hills: the Morro da Urca (the little one) and the Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar). You reach both by cable cars that look as though they are going to a) hit the mountain and b) swing off their cables at any moment. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience: I think it was my favourite day out of everything I did here.
Some people think this is a tourist trap, but I loved the terrifyingly swingy cable cars
and the stupendous views over the city.
However, don’t be me and go on a Saturday.
If you must, don’t be scared by the immense queue, which snakes around the parking lot. It moves really quickly, and I was on a train within 30 minutes — I just read a book on the Kindle app on my phone whilst I waited.
It is quite a long haul for small children, as there is a line for each cable car — you will take four in all, so take a stroller/buggy and infinite patience. If it’s sunny, take sunblock and a hat as there is no shade in any of the queues for the cars.
There are plenty of ice cream stands and drinks booths up the mountain, but DO NOT try to eat lunch at the open air restaurant/bar on the first mountain — the service is Fawlty Towers-esque, and all the waiters are dismissive clowns who embarrass their city and themselves by their laconic expression, nonchalant attitude and staggering nastiness.
Leave at least three hours for the mission, but you could spend much longer, simply by taking a book and a picnic. It’s truly lovely up there, and there are lots of places and tree covered shade to just sit, admire the views and hang out. There is also a small museum showing the history of the cable cars.