10 cable cars that will give you vertigo

From Swiss engineering efficiency to Chinese ingenuity, meet the world’s most amazing cable cars.
By Tarquin Cooper

Few things demonstrate mankind's engineering skill better than an impressive cable car. And when it comes to taking the pain out of a climb, there's nothing that even comes close. Skiers and mountain bikers have a lot to be thankful for.

And so does Hollywood. Cable cars have provided the setting for some classic action-flick fights, from the Clint Eastwood war film Where Eagles Dare to Bond movie Moonraker, filmed on the famous Sugarloaf cable car in Rio de Janeiro.

But not every car cable listed below is for kicks. For cities they're the answer to traffic problems, while for remote communities, they're a lifeline. 

The world's fastest

Genting Skyway, world's fastest cable car
The world's fastest cable car © Getty Images

One of Asia's most impressive gondolas. Genting Skyway is a gondola lift connecting Gohtong Jaya and Resorts World Genting in Malaysia. The world's fastest, it reaches a top speed of 21.6kph and is the longest in south-east Asia. 

The most scenic

Surreal viewpoint of the The Vallée Blanche Aerial Gondola
Arguably the world's most scenic cable car ride © Aurora Photos

The Aiguille du Midi cable car in France takes hikers and skiers from the town of Chamonix to within touching distance of the summit of Mt Blanc in just a matter of minutes. For most people, the journey stops there. But the ride across the Vallée Blanche to Pointe Helbrunner is even more spectacular as you soar over one of the finest alpine viewpoints anywhere in the world.

The lifeline to the outside world

Villagers cross the 1km cableway in Yushan, China
This isn't for fun – this is a lifeline © Quirky China News / REX

Some cable cars featured here are examples of incredible engineering – and this is no exception. Clearly, the health and safety standards of Europe and the west have yet to catch on here but for residents of   Yushan, China, this 1km long cableway provides a valuable lifeline to the outside world – so long as you don't look down.

Swiss efficiency

Tourists enjoy a ride in the Sanserhorn cable car
The world's first open-top double-decker cable car © CabriO

From home-made ingenuity to Swiss efficiency, meet the 21st-century cable car, the world's first open-top double decker. It transports passengers to the top of the 1,900m Mount Stanserhorn in just over six minutes, offering incredible 360-degree views.

The City of God's cable car

Evening view of the Sugarloaf cable car
The world's most iconic cable car © Nikada / Getty Images

Some cities have famous buildings, Rio de Janeiro has its cable car, which provided a memorable fight scene in the Bond flick Moonraker. Rising to the summit of Sugarloaf, it's an icon. In a city not short of its attractions (we mean the beaches and the Christ the Redeemer statue, of course), the cable car holds its own as a wonder in the City of God.

Chinese engineering, part 2

Tienmen cable car
China – it's a beautiful place © Vladimir Piskunov / Getty Images

The cablecar was reputed to be the 'longest passenger cableway of high mountains in the world', with a total length of 7,455m and an ascent of 1,279m. But we're not sure it counts, as it's beaten by La Paz – see below.

Commuting in La Paz

commuters go to work via cable car in La Paz
Not just for skiers and hikers but also commuters. © Jorge Bernal / Getty Images

This cable car serves the needs of commuters. At 10km the teleférico La Paz-El Alto is considered to be the longest aerial cable car in the world. It was built as a solution to traffic congestion in the city and opened in 2014.

Highway across the Thames

Aerial view of London cable car
You'll never guess where this is © Richard Newstead / Getty Images

London famously has 34 bridges so you'd think the city didn't need any more methods for crossing the Thames river. Wrong. In 2012, the Emirates Air Line cable car opened. At 90m off the ground, it's the most scenic way to cross the river, offering great views across the UK capital.

The longest unsupported span

Looking into the ether on board the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola
This is the world's longest unsupported span © David McColm/Whistler Blackcomb

It's fair to say the Canadians are pretty proud of this one – the PEAK 2 PEAK gondola which links up the Whistler Blackcomb resorts. It has the honour of being the longest unsupported span in the world (3,024m) and the highest lift of its kind in the world: 436m above the valley floor.

The world's highest cable car


View of the Mérida cable car in Venezuela
The world's highest cable car © David Evans / Getty

With contenders like La Paz (one of the world's highest cities) and the the cable car across Mt Blanc (see number 2 above) there's some stiff competition for the world's highest cable car. But it's Venezuela's Mérida Cable Car that takes the prize. It begins at an altitude of 1,640m and finishes at 4,765m. That's high enough to die from altitude sickness.

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