One person’s thrill is another person’s horror, especially when it comes to heights. And scenic view or not, what if only a steel box, suspended by a wire, keeps you from dropping thousands of feet down? With dozens if not hundreds of cable car routes around the world, it’s not easy to pick the scariest ones. We’ve found eleven that made our stomachs feel more than a bit queasy.
China’s Tianmen Chan or Heaven’s Gate Mountain, pictured here, is located about 8 km south of the city of Zhangjiajie (formerly Dayong) in the northern province of Hunan. Visitors wanting to enjoy the view have only two options for getting up, neither of them very attractive: Either walking up 999 steps to the top of the mountain without platforms for stopping, or taking the cable car. The latter is the longest cable car ride in the world, covering a distance of 7455 m and scaling a height of 1279 m. Gulp…
This image can only be titled “Ride to or from nowhere”. And the purpose is equally drab: Visitors to the top are greeted by the ruins of an ancient fortress. This is the Masada cableway in Masada, Israel, the world’s lowest cable car ride because its bottom station is 257 m below sea level. That doesn’t mean the height gap covered is not much – the top is 33 m above sea level and 290 m is quite a distance to fall… Does anyone else feel reminded of Mad Max?
Staying in Israel, we’re not sure what’s scariest about Haifa’s Stella Maris cable car ride, which brings people from the Mediterranean coast to the top of Mount Carmel – the highway waiting below or the feeling of being dropped right into the sea? Must be a combination of both.
The téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi is a cable car to a mountain by the same name in the Mont Blanc Massif of the French Alps. This ride will make the heart of even the staunchest cable car lover beat faster as the 1955 construction still holds the title of and world’s highest vertical ascent cable car, covering a height gap of more than 2,800 m from 1,035 m to 3,842 m. The prices are also steep as authorities are cashing in on thrill seekers with ticket prices at EUR 41 for this 20-minute ride.
What’s at the top of the “Needle of Midday”? A viewing platform, café and gift shop, plus it is the starting point of the Vallee Blanche ski run. Yup, it’s up this mountain.
Hong Kong’s Skyrail cable car ride sure is scenic but the view down, suspended over only water, is not for the faint-hearted. And just look at all the cable cars lined up one after another, like a gigantic necklace with little beads. Wouldn’t want to get stuck in that queue…
Let’s take a little break to get some facts straight: cable cars are also called aerial tramways and should not be confused with street tramways or street cable cars – the former term used in British English and the latter in American English. The French and German terms téléphérique and Seilbahn, respectively, are also quite well known because so many of them can be found in the Alpine regions.
Though the system today is mostly associated with transporting people, the first cable car, devised in 1644, was actually built as a tool to move soil over a height distance. Later cable car systems in the 19th century were also mainly built to transport ore for mining. It was only in the 1920s with the emergence of a leisure industry that the first cable cars as means of public transport were developed.
The first cable cars for sightseeing and recreational purposes went to the highest peaks of the Alps in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and after the Second World War to mountain peaks in other European regions, the Americas, Japan, Canada and South Africa. Speaking of which – Cape Town’s Table Mountain can be scaled via cable car but you should only do so if your stomach can take it…
Getting on with our journey without any sugarcoating – passengers who can’t stomach the view down from Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain should keep their view firmly on the mountain top instead.
Visitors to Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain need to take two cable cars to reach the summit: One to Moro de Açúca at 20 m, another one to Pão de Açúcar, 396 m (1,299 ft) above the harbor.
If the Rio de Janeiro cable car looks vaguely familiar – this is where James Bond had his famous fight with Jaws on top of the cable car in Moonraker. Here’s another stomach-churning view with one of the famous cars that can hold 75 passengers.
At Yellow Mountain or Huang Chan in China we’re not sure what’s scarier – the view down or the cable car’s proximity to the mountain? What if there’s a sudden gust of wind that pushes the little cabin against the rock face? We shudder to think further.
The Klein Matterhorn cable car in Zermatt, Switzerland is Europe’s highest cable car with a terminal located at 3,320 m – just 563 m from the peak. Here is a view of the Theodul Glacier.
Here’s a view from the Klein Matterhorn cable car’s last section.
We’re not sure about the cable car to the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. On the one hand, it could win the prize for most scenic cable car ride ever, on the other… Well, see for yourself.
The Langkawi cable car construction in Malaysia again, from higher up.
Here, the Langkawi cable car construction in Malaysia on a foggy day.
Speaking of fog, we’ll leave you to ponder over the question of whether it would be better to see where one is going and shudder or to board a cable car into the unknown at this last location.
The Genting Skyway in Genting, Malaysia, is about one hour away from Kuala Lumpur. Though South East Asia’s longest cable car system, it is also the world’s fastest, so if you’re out to enjoy the ride to Genting Highlands’ peak at 1760 m, it may be over before you know it.