Some may call them gondolas, others may call them cable cars or aerial tramways but we call them trams. By tram, we aren’t talking about the light-rail or streetcars that run through most of Europe; we are talking about the cable-suspended cabins that seamlessly float through the air. All over the world these trams offer incredible sweeping views of oceans, mountains and cities. From trams that offer free public transportation to those with glass floors, here are 12 of the best tram rides in the world.
12. Roosevelt Island Tram – New York City, United States
It is one of America’s only aerial tramways used for urban mass transit and that fact alone makes this tram pretty incredible. It serves more than two million commuters and tourists a year connecting Roosevelt Island to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Each cabin can hold up to 110 people and the trip only takes three minutes. The draw for tourists seems to be the sweeping views of Manhattan and the East River it provides from 230 feet in the air. This Tram has been featured in many television shows and movies and continues to be one of the most loved trams in the world.
11. Gibraltar Cable Car – Gibraltar, Spain
Many people have never heard of Gibraltar mainly because it is a very small British Overseas Territory that is located on the south coast of Spain, often referred to as “The Rock.” One of the highlights here is a trip on the cable car. It has been around since 1966 and not summiting the top via cable car would be like going to the Grand Canyon and not looking over the rim. The ride to the top only takes six minutes, but visitors are provided with an audio guide that talks about the history of the area. Sweeping views over the strait and into Northern Africa accompany riders. At the top visitors will be privy to the view of two continents, three countries and the meeting point of two great bodies of water. There is only one hitch to being at the top of this rock and that is the thieving resident apes that are waiting for you. Make sure to leave all food below and hold onto your camera as these apes love to steal right from your hand.
10. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – Cape Town, South Africa
It is one of three trams in the world where each circular cabin rotates a full 360 degrees during the ascent to Table Mountain. The five minute trip up provides spectacular views and has been enjoyed by over 20 million people. A quick fact about this cable car, it was actually one of Cape Town’s first tourist attractions and opened in 1929. On the ride up and at the summit visitors are granted 360-degree views of Cape Town, Table Bay, nearby mountains and the rest of Table Mountain National Park. Also at the top is where you will find three hiking trails, a guided walk, self-serve restaurant and souvenir shop. One of the more popular times to ride this tram is sunset as there seems to be no better place in Africa to watch the sun sink away than on top of Table Mountain. If you are feeling really adventurous, skip the cable car ride back down and rappel down the cliff face.
9. Sandia Peak Tramway – Albuquerque, United States
It is hailed as North America’s longest aerial tram and has the world’s third longest single span. That alone is enough for us to want to get to Albuquerque and ride it today. At 2.7 miles long the tram provides sweeping views of the steep rocky terrain. The trip starts off in the suburbs of northeast Albuquerque and spends 15 minutes taking visitors up to the high desert peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Riders should expect an elevation change of about 4,000 feet and a temperature drop of 30 degrees. It works on a double system where one tram ascends and the other descends, each being able to hold up to 50 people. When this tram was first constructed in 1966 the engineering company touted it as being one of the most difficult tramway construction projects because of the terrain. You can just imagine what those views look like from 3,000 feet in the air.
8. Telluride Gondola – Colorado, United States
This ultra laid back ski town offers an equally cool form of public transportation. It offers a 13 minute tram ride between Telluride and Mountain Village. What makes this tram even better, riders can ride it as many times as they want for free. Since it opened in 1996, this tram has always been free and motors along leisurely at 11 mph operating from 7 am-midnight. This tram offers incredible 360 degree views of the San Juan Mountains and locals refer to it as the “best commute in the country.” Everyone is welcome on this tram including your four legged furry friends as long as they are on a leash. Equipped with ski and snowboard racks in the winter, bike racks in the summer and blankets all year round. This tram has truly thought of everything to make your ride unforgettable.
7. Skyline Gondola – Queenstown, New Zealand
The views from this gondola, the steepest of its kind in all of the Southern Hemisphere, are epically amazing. This tram takes visitors 450 meters above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to the top of Bob’s Peak. You can even take your bike up on it. But what awaits visitors at the top is what makes this tram one of the best. Besides the awesome viewing platforms and outdoor terraces, there is a plethora of activities that await visitors on this peak. For the adrenaline seekers, paragliding, bungee jumping and luge racing are all offered at the top. For those not quite daring enough, there are plenty of mountain biking trails, stargazing tours and scenic dining options as well. The 222- degree view of the Remarkable Range, the town center looking like a Lego city and the plethora of activities at the top make this one amazing tram ride.
6. Dubrovnik Cable Car -Dubrovnik, Croatia
Soar up above Dubrovnik’s orange-roofed walled Old Town on this amazing cable car that goes 1,329 feet up into the air. The original cable car that was opened in 1969 was actually bombed out during the 1991 Balkan conflicts, but has since been replaced and re-opened in 2010. It only takes four minutes to do the entire run, but it remains one of the best ways for visitors to take in the Dalmatian coast anytime of the day. It is possible to buy a one-way ticket up and that often gives visitors the best of both worlds, as the walk down is just as scenic and only takes a mere 30 minutes. We suggest aiming for sunset as the sky lights up with color when the sun sinks beneath the Adriatic Sea over this twinkling city with its snaky roads and rocky islands.
5. Hakone Ropeway – Hakone, Japan
With over two million riders a year, the Hakone Ropeway is hailed as the world’s busiest gondola, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This 30 minute journey takes visitors 2.5 miles from Togendai Station on the shores of Lake Ashi to Sounzan Station in Hakone, an area known for its hot spring baths. It makes two stops along the way and promises views of the snowcapped Mount Fuji, the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Ashi, the volcanic fumes of Owakudani and forested mountains. The trams run at one minute intervals to the tourist busy town of Hakone, where locals tell visitors to eat a hardboiled egg that has been soaked in the sulfur rich water in order to add seven more years to their life. We aren’t too sure about the jet black egg, but we are sure about making this tram ride a must do while in Japan.
4. Langkawi SkyCab – Langkawi, Malaysia
The SkyCab is located at the oldest part of South East Asia and whisks visitors over jungle and rock that is 550 million years old. There are actually three parts of this tram ride, first the base station located at the foot of the Machincang Mountain where visitors catch the tram. The second station is in the middle at an elevation of 650 m above sea level that provides panoramic views of the main island. There are viewing platforms available and here is the chance to get up close to the unique flora. The top station sits at an elevation of 708 m above sea level and features two viewing platforms that offer dramatic views. The entire journey takes about 15 minutes if you choose not to get off and takes you to the island’s second highest peak, Mount Machincang.
3. Ngong Ping 360 – Hong Kong, China
It is hailed as being one of the world’s best cable car experiences and with its choice of cabins, incredible views and cultural village, it is easy to see why. The journey is 3.5 miles one way and takes visitors between Tung Chung Town and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. To start off the gondola makes a hard turn to begin its journey over the stunning Tung Chung Bay and into the lush green mountains of Lantau Island. The views include the South China Sea, the Tian Tan Buddha Statue, the International Airport and the flora and fauna of North Lantau Country Park. For those visitors wanting to splurge, book the incredible crystal cabins that are outfitted with a glass floor, giving you a bird’s eye views over all the sights. You will end up at the touristy Ngong Ping Village where you can visit the monastery, see the giant Buddha statue and explore the museum of cable car replicas from around the world.
2. Stanserhorn CabriO – Stans, Switzerland
It is the world’s first double-decker, open-top tram in the world and for those of you who are afraid of heights – you may want to skip it. Opened in June 2012, this cable car zips visitors 3,737 feet to the top of Stanserhorn. The lower level of the car with floor to wall windows fits a comfortable 60 people. Taking the staircase to the top is most recommended where an additional 30 people can fit. Fresh mountain area, 360 degree panoramic views and the wind in your hair is what you can expect up here. It takes just six and a half minutes to reach the top and before you know it the rolling green hills, towering mountains and bright blue waters will be below you. It may be the first open-air tram but we doubt it will be the last.
1. Grenoble-Bastille Cable Car – Grenoble, France
Since 1934, a steel cable has connected Grenoble to the summit all year round, in the world’s first urban route that opened with 12-sided cabins painted blue. Nowadays the cable cars look a little different in their ultra modern bubble shape with floor to ceiling windows in a cool silver and red color. Made of plexi-glass and steel these cabins fit six people each and are responsible for taking visitors from the banks of the Isere River to the ancient Bastille fortifications, in just four minutes. Safety is their number one priority here and in January these cable cars shut down for 20 days in order to perform drills, checks and maintenance. On a clear day, not only will visitors have sweeping views of the city of Grenoble but can also see the gorgeous Alps including the iconic Mont Blanc.