There are three different ways to reach the top. The first is to take a cable car. This leaves from the ground station in Urca and runs along a 1,400 meter route to Pão de Açúcar, with a stop at Morro da Urca, a smaller peak that nestles between the two points. The bubble-shaped car provides 360-degree views of the city through its glass walls and roof, and the ascent takes a total of six minutes, allowing plenty of time to capture some wonderful images. The cars run every 20 minutes and are open daily, and the last car to descend from Pão de Açúcar leaves between 8 and 9pm.
The second route is a mix of hiking and cable car. From the ground station, visitors can hike up Morro da Urca and, upon reaching the top, take the cable car the rest of the way to Pão de Açúcar. The hike is relatively easy and takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes. The trail leading up is surrounded by the tropical vegetation of the Atlantic Forest with monkeys, lizards and butterflies common companions for the hikers. Tickets for the cable car can be bought at Morro da Urca.
The final route is for the more adventurous. Pão de Açúcar attracts avid climbers all year round with over 40 different routes up to the top with various difficulty ratings. The easiest route is Costao, which is recommended for beginners, yet there are other more challenging routes such as Coringa that will satisfy the more experienced climbers. There are plenty of guided tours that accompany all levels of climbers and also rent out equipment to those wanting to go solo.
Any time of day is good to go, although expect large crowds during the afternoons, especially on the weekends or holidays. It’s better to go in the morning to avoid queues and the heat; the route to the top is quite exposed and it’s difficult to escape the intense sun. The most rewarding time to go is perhaps evening on a clear day when you will be treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets the city offers.
Aside from the panoramic views, there are several other attractions to enjoy. Near the ground station is Praia Vermelha, a cozy little beach that offers water sports such as paddle boarding and canoeing as well as stunning natural surroundings. It’s a perfect spot to take a dip before or after the Pão de Açúcar trip.
At Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar, there are shops to buy souvenirs, food, and drinks, including caipirinhas, should you need a little boost before ascending to dizzying heights in the cable cars. Morro da Urca also hosts a variety of events, from shows and weddings to business gatherings and New Years parties. There is also an option to book helicopter rides of varying lengths that gives a bird eye’s view of the city and circles some of Rio’s most famous spots.
Ground station: Avenida Pasteur 520, Urca, RJ, Brazil
Buses: There are two main buses that go to Praia Vermelha or the ground station: 511 or 512