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Cable cars

When I was in Zacatecas a few weeks ago, I used its Teleferico to cross the city and had a great overview of its urban plan within the narrow valley. As over 35 WHS have one or more cable car systems in their core zones, they warrant a closer look; so I did some additional research and updated the existing connection details with a year of construction, length in meters & minutes, etc. To determine what’s in and what’s out, I used the wiki definition of cable car: “a vehicle suspended in the air from a cable”. There apparently are 3 main types: Aerial tramways, Chairlifts, and Gondola lifts. The gondolas have a rotating bull wheel at the terminal that moves the cable forward, the aerial tramways just go back and forth.


The earliest incarnation of a cable car (drawn by horses) is said to be from the 17th century, but in the late 19th century the idea really took off with the use in mining areas. They carried ore from a mine located high on the mountain to an ore mill located at a lower elevation. In the early 20th century, they started transporting tourists instead of goods.

The cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio is the oldest among the WHS that I could find. It originally dates from 1912 and is said to be the third-ever constructed in the world. Other early ones are the Krossobanen in Rjukan (1928, “a gift from Norsk Hydro to the people of Rjukan, offering them a view of the sun which is obscured by the surrounding mountains during the winter months“) and the one to Table Mountain in the Cape Floral Region (1929).


Cable Cars at WHS that stand out:

  • The world's longest cable car (according to CNN, 2017), 7455 meters long, passes over the Zhangjiajie National Park (Wulingyuan), and leads to Tianmen Mountain.
  • Another candidate, stretching 7.5km, is the Skyrail running above the Barron Gorge National Park (Wet Tropics of Queensland); it was the world’s longest gondola cableway at the time of completion in 1995.
  • The Table Mountain cable car nowadays has ‘rotairs’, rotating cabins that allow for a 360-degree view.
  • A ride on Macao’s Cable Guia takes only 80 seconds.
  • The Funivia del Sacro Monte di Varallo is the steepest cable car in Europe.
  • Masada’s track starts 257 m below sea level (and ends at a modest 33 m above), thereby making it the lowest aerial tramway in the world.

No less than 17 Chinese WHS have cable cars, but I had a hard time finding data about them. Most are fairly new (>1990) and Chinese-made, but some are designed by an Austrian/Swiss company similar to a high percentage of the others across the world.


In their evaluation of nominations, ICOMOS and IUCN seem to react not so strongly against already existing cable cars. Regarding Masada: “The only intrusions are the lower visitor and cable car facilities, which in their new form have been designed and relocated sympathetically, to minimize visual impact, though the siting of the summit station, is still controversial.” They oppose new developments however, such as at Mount Emei: “The main intrusion has been a cable car which leads to the Golden Summit of the mountain and brings some 300,000 people a year to the sensitive montane forest zone, as well as the construction of a light monorail in 1998 after inscription of the property.”

The most controversial cable car still operational is the one at the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. It was meant to be a temporary construction for the Federal Garden Show 2011 in Koblenz and to be demolished after 3 years. This didn’t happen, so after a lot of discussions, the 2013 WHC agreed to tolerate its existence until 2026, when it technically would be end-of-life.

Do you know of any other WHS with cable cars in their core zone, which aren’t in the connection yet? Or have WHS + Cable car-related stories to share?

Els - 27 March 2022

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Solivagant 27 March 2022

Welsh slate isn't connected under funicular either.
As per Tsunami.... The use of "cable car" By itself in English is ambiguous.. Remember, you jump on the "cable car" in San Francisco!! I have no problem with the categorization you have chosen but it might be better to title it "Suspended cable cars"?
Regarding " Funicular ".... Comes fromLatin for rope I understand.... One definition is that it has to be equally weighted rather than free... So San Francisco isn't a " Funicular" Just because it is terrestrial and on rails. I haven't looked at all the"Funiculars" to check their "sub type". The Welsh Slate certainly is...

Tsunami 27 March 2022

FYI funicular is referred to as cable car in Japan.

Els Slots 27 March 2022

Regarding the definition: I choose the suspended ones only on purpose. The cable railways we have under a separate connection: Funiculars.

Tsunami 27 March 2022

Hi MoPython, Thanks for sharing. In my attempt to see the Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona site from the Flims side, I have gone skiing at the Flim ski resort twice, in 2015 and 2020. But both times snow storms closed the entire ski area before noon before I got to the point for viewing. It was such a waste of money because the lift ticket and the ski rental together cosr like 200 Euros. But when the WHS center opens, as you said, I might go back there again.

Solivagant 27 March 2022

Cable car definition Wiki
"A transport system, typically one travelling up and down a mountain, in which cabins are suspended on a continuous moving cable driven by a motor at one end of the route.
a carriage on a cable railway."

Definition Webster's
" a vehicle that hangs in the air from a cable that pulls it up and down mountains. : a vehicle that is pulled along tracks by a cable."

So you have chosen a subset of "cable car"... The suspended cable car....

Solivagant 27 March 2022

Or are these not "cable cars" By your definition???

Solivagant 27 March 2022

The Slate Landscape of NW Wales has at least 2 to my knowledge
a. A refurbished demonstration one at Dinorwic Quarry museum site... Showing how slate was moved down the face of the quarry
b. A new (?) tourist carrying one which goes underground (!!) deep into Llegweg quarry. Claimed to be "Europe's steepest".

Els Slots 27 March 2022

Thank you, MoPython. Switzerland and Austria indeed are full of them. I earlier had one connection for Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona (chair lift to Cassonsgrat), but this one is not in use anymore. Will add the one you provided, looks like a great ride!

MoPython 27 March 2022

Hi Els
Even if I read a lot on this website (and was excited on your last trip to middle america which I did similar 20 years ago), this is the first time I write something!
I'm working in tourism in Switzerland, so cable cars are a common thing for me. I live close to the Swiss Tectonik Arena Sardona and this is missing on your connection-list, but we have a lot of cable cars around. So I had a closer look at this WHS, looking at the boundaries on the UNESCO-page.
There is probably a dozen of cable cars coming very very close to the boundaries, but not really into it. It seems to me as they defined the boundaries around them. But I found one which goes into it, the cable car Elm-Tschinglen (only german: I even found another 3 unimportant cable cars which go into it, but these are only privat ones for alps, but normally wanderers still are able to use them.
At last I will share here a project which will be realized in the next two years, the FlemXpress from Flims ( - it will also stay close but still outside the boundaries, but there are two interesting facts:
- it's technically a brandnew thing, because the gondolas will work on demand
- there is a WHS-information center planned on top

Zoe 27 March 2022

It's crazy how almost every Chinese mountain has a cable car, which unfortunately also brings lots of tourism to the mountain top.

Yoshino Ropeway is in the Kii mountains, super close to a site but I am unsure how exact those core zones ended up being drawn. Interesting Japanese use "ropeway" for a cable car system.