Elephanta Island Tourism

Elephanta Island is one among the islands in Mumbai harbour. It is an important tourist destination for a single day trip and is well known for its cave temples that have been carved from rocks.

The island which was supposed to be the capital of a powerful local kingdom has thickly wooded mango, tamarind and palm trees.

Regular boats ply to the island from the Gate Way of India in Mumbai, about 10 kilometers away.

The trip to the island is a journey back to the times when mysticism and art reigned supreme and the task of carving out statues and caves from monoliths was a blessing, and is a testimony to the skills of our ancestors.

Cave 1 at Elephanta

The island, small and round, rises like the back of a giant turtle from amidst the azure depths of the Arabian Sea. You will take a narrow road after disembarking. This travels to the site of ascent, broken by the persuasive cries of the jamun wallahs selling the salted plum coloured fruit in cleverly designed pouches, holding not more than 7-8 jamuns in each. To get to the caves, you will climb a steep street up, as the caves are located on the top of a hillock shaped island. This climb is followed by a long flight of sharp stone steps, where the old and the invalid used to be carried in palanquins by coolies. Some locals regard the caves as a religious place dedicated to Lord Shiva, which accounts for a large number of aged visitors. There is a tourist tax of Rs 5 for adults and Rs 3 for children. At the entrance of the park, one needs to pay an entrance fee, i.e., Rs 10 for Indian citizens and Rs 250 for foreign nationals. There are several caves you can visit. According to the guard there, there are only five caves on Elephanta Island. But some of the maps show seven caves. Except the first two caves at the entrance, other caves are small and not well developed. You can also walk up to the top of the Island, it is called Cannon Hill. There is a old cannon there and nothing else to see.

Get around Elephanta Island

From the Gateway of India to the world famous Elephanta Caves, and from the hustle and bustle of the contemporary commerce of Mumbai, this trip is a journey back in time; to a time when faith, mysticism and art reigned supreme, when the challenge of carving out gigantic statues and caves from monoliths was accepted as a blessing, when the tryst with stone gave birth to passionate effigies of Hindu faith, a glorious testimony, even today, of the aesthetics and hard labour of our ancestors. When you arrive at the Elephanta Island, there will be lots of locals offering you the service to guide you around. Unless you are unfamiliar with the Indian god Shiva and would like to know the gory details of what happened to Shiva's world, you do not really need a tourist guide -- their charges are not really reasonable, i.e., Rs 2500 or more to tell you all about Indian Gods that you may not know if they are telling you the true stories or not and you would probably forget by the time you leave Elephanta Island. If you really want to know all about Elephanta caves and Shiva, you can buy a good book from any vendors when you walk up the hill to the caves -- remember you should always bargain. There is a small train to take you from the dockside to the entrance. The price, Rs 5, it is worth the Rs 5 unless you want to exercise which you do not really need, because you'll have a chance to really exercise by walking up to the cave, the whole 120 steep steps.

How to get in Elephanta Island

To get to Elephanta Caves, you will need to go to the Gateway of India in the Mumbai city. From here, get the tickets for the launch (boat or ferry ). The journey takes 1 hour to reach the island by sea. The launch travels at a speed of 14 Nautical miles. The tickets are available at the Maharastra tourism development corp (MTDC) at the entrance of Gateway. The Caves are off-visit on Mondays although the MTDC does sell boat tickets with the ticket saying so, so be aware. The launch (boat) leaves from gate no.4 at the rear of Gateway of India. The ticket for Deluxe boat is Rs.130 for Adult, Rs. 90 for Child (3 to 7 years) which includes return journey. If you want to see the view from the upper deck, you have to pay Rs.10/-extra to the launch (boat) operator. Economy boat charges are Rs. 20 less. There are 2 types of launch: Economy and Deluxe. One is big, the other one is slightly smaller in size. Travelling by both carries its own fun experiences. The first boat of the day is at 9AM; they may wait a little bit for more passengers, but they are pretty much leave the dock on time. They have a boat going to Elephanta Island every 30 minutes. Week days are less crowded than weekends.

Accommodation and Hostels in Elephanta Island

Overnight stay at Elephanta Caves is not permitted. If you want to rest during daytime, The Maharastra Tourism Department Hotel is a good choice. They also serve food and drinks. If you want to stay overnight, then you have to stay with the locals and that is not advisable.