When Sarajevo’s Mount Trebevic cable car reopened in April 2018, the Bosnian capital became the latest city whose urban gondola is much more than just a tourist attraction. We’ve come up with aerial links that have reshaped and revitalised cities around the world, along with those that have brought a much-needed boost in visitor numbers.
9 cable cars from around the world
It’s not often a cable car network can contribute to a cut in the crime rate, but Medellin’s Metrocable has done just that. Opened in 2004, the gondola lift system forms part of the Colombian city’s public transport system, crucially linking the centre with outlying and more impoverished barrios that cling to the steep hillsides. Once these areas became less isolated – and its inhabitants less likely to be caught up in drugs gangs – the crime rate dropped sharply.
Medellin, Colombia © Xela Person / Shutterstock
Before the 1992-95 war devastated Bosnia, Sarajevo’s cable car had been taking locals to the top of Mount Trebevic since 1959. It also had a minor role during the 1984 Winter Olympics, when spectators rode the gondola to watch the bobsleigh events. Not only was the cable car destroyed during the war, but the mountain itself was covered with artillery encampments and swarming with snipers. After 26 years, the cable car was reconstructed and became a source of optimism for the city’s future – not to mention the place to catch some of the best views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Trebevic cable car in Sarajevo, Bosnia © Nedim Dzaka / Shutterstock
La Paz, Bolivia
Suitably for the world’s highest capital city, Mi Teleferico in La Paz is the first to have cable cars as the fundamental part of its public transport system. The network is one of the longest in the world, and connects the valley of La Paz with its poorer hilltop neighbour, El Alto. With 10km of cable cars – and more to come in the near future – Mi Teleferico has drastically reduced pollution in the city, and given residents a particularly pleasant way to commute. It certainly beats taking a bus along narrow twisting roads.
La Paz, Bolivia © saiko3p / Shutterstock
Venezuela’s capital is another case of a city using cable cars to connect its poorer districts to the richer centre. As with La Paz and Medellin, the Caracas Metrocable has been integrated into its public transport network, and has made it easier and safer for residents in the rundown and mountainous San Agustin barrio to commute to the centre in the valley below. It was also a considerably more sensible and cheaper alternative to building new roads around the city.
Mexico City, Mexico
It’s early days yet, but the burgeoning cable car network in Mexico City is already transforming one of its suburbs. Running since 2016, the Mexicable cable cars in Ecatepec have cut commuting times dramatically – from more than an hour to a mere 17 minutes. Not only that, but passengers are not longer in fear of being mugged during interminable and dangerous bus journeys. And the authorities have been doing a bit of urban renewal by paving roads, installing street lighting and even commissioning giant murals.
France’s first urban cable car has been running since 1936, which isn’t very surprising in a country where the ski industry is big business. In fact, by 1936, cable cars had become old hat. Nicknamed Les Bulles because of their glass bubble shape, Grenoble’s cable cars shoot to the top of the Bastille, the 16th-century fortress that looms over the city on Mont Rachais. From here you get astounding views of Grenoble and its surrounding Préalpes mountain ranges including Chartreuse and Vercors. It’s become the most-visited sight in Grenoble, and on clear days you can spot Mont Blanc in the distance.
Grenoble, France © karnizz / Shutterstock
In the late 1960s, the Singapore government was coming up with grand plans for giant tourism projects, one of which turned into the Singapore Cable Car in 1974. Built to connect Mount Faber in the main island to the resort island of Sentosa resort across Keppel Harbour, the cable car offers panoramic views as it swoops from the mountain over the harbour. It was also the first cable car in the world to offer glass-bottom cabins – definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Running since 2006, the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car whisks tourists on Lantau Island to two of Hong Kong’s top attractions. Asia’s longest bi-cable ropeway is now the most scenic and least stressful way to visit the Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. It’s certainly preferable to the long and tortuous bus journey up the mountain.
Ngong Ping 360 cable car to Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong © Patrick Foto / Shutterstock
Once you see the scarily twisting mountain road that crawls up the mountain between Santorini’s port and its capital, Fira, you’d want to hop on the cable car instead. It’s easy to dismiss the cable car as a gimmick, but it’s become a vital link. Just be prepared for serious queues when several ferries arrive at once.
Santorini, Greece © saiko3p / Shutterstock
Top image: Ngong Ping 360 cable car to Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong © Patrick Foto / Shutterstock
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