Probably the most important of the ingredients that give Rio de Janeiro its spectacular appearance are its granite peaks. Rising dramatically from the Atlantic Ocean and the thick carpet of forest, they define the landscape as dramatic, where otherwise it could also just be called pretty. Even though they appear to be inconquerable, most of the peaks can be reached. Sugarloaf mountain, or Pão de Açúcar was given its name in the 16th century when the sugarcane industry was growing fast also in Brazil. Other than its famous brothers like the Corcovado, it stands rather solitary at the eastern end of Rio de Janeiro. It seems to rise up directly from the Atlantic, it defines the end of a string of beaches and bays, it marks the entrance to Guanabara Bay, and it figures prominently on most images of this unique city.
Even from the far end of Leblon, when you come around the corner of the road running around the rocky edges of the western fringes of the famed city, you see a dramatic, rounded peak in the distance. Coming closer, the Sugarloaf mountain always looms higher, and more dramatic, over the city below. Even from the western side of Copacabana, it looks like it stands at the end, but in reality, you first have to pass through a tunnel to reach the beginning of the cable car. Unless you are a skilled mountain climber, the only way up to this granite beauty is by taking a cable car. You actually do so in two stages: first to Urca, the smaller sister of Sugarloaf, and then, after a short walk, the second ride which takes you to the very top of one of the most famous mountains of Rio and, indeed, the world.
Once on top, you regret not having taken more clothes: the wind can make you feel cold, especially when the occasional cloud blows over and blocks the rays of the sun. There are several platforms to enjoy the views that are nothing short of spectacular. To the west, you see the small Praia Vermelha, beyond which the mighty Copacabana beach stretches out. You see Botafogo bay with dozends of small boats bobbing on the tranquil waters of this protected stretch of water. Many more dramatic mountains define the landscape in the distance, Corcovado easily spotted with the Cristo Redentor statue welcoming you with its open arms. To the north, the airport of Santos and Guanabara Bay with the long brudge, and the the east, Niterói with yet more bays and beaches. For me, the best part of Sugarloaf is to stand there and watch the clouds climb, temporarilly obscuring even Urca, the haze covering the feet of the mighty mountains, the constant shifting of delicate light onto this city that lies at your feet.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sugarloaf (Brazil). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sugarloaf. Read more about this site.