Situated to the east of “The City of Dreams”, Mumbai, Elephanta Island happens to be one of the most popular tourist spots in India. This destination was named ‘Elephanta Island’ in the sixteenth century, by the Portuguese navigators. This name was suggested after a big stone elephant was discovered at the spot.
Spread across a region of around 16 square kilometers, the place houses the historic rock-cut structure, the Elephanta Caves. Dating back to the medieval period, Elephanta Caves is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These caves feature over 2000 years old Buddhist and Hindu cave temples. The Hindu temples consist of stone sculptures that represent the Hindu Saiva cult.
These temples shelter important imageries, including ‘Trimurti’ (Lord Shiva with three heads), ‘Ardhnarishwar’ (a manifestation of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati sharing a common body), and ‘Gangadhar’ (a representation of River Ganga descending to the planet). These caves also form a unique trekking destination for the visitors.
Elephanta Island is visited by a host of tourists from all over the world each day. Although the destination is visited by all kinds of travelers, yet it is more popular amongst history buffs, photo fanatics, and experience seekers. The ferry and toy train ride to reach the ancient caves makes the trip to Elephanta Island even more attractive and joyous.
Apart from sightseeing, photography, and learning, the tourists visiting this beautiful destination also indulge in shopping at the local stalls that sell souvenirs, junk jewelry, traditional bags, shell necklaces, bracelets, and apparel. Excited to visit Elephanta Island? Check out all the important things you need to learn before you head to your destination.
How To Reach
From Mumbai Airport-
Once you reach Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, you can easily take a taxi or a bus to go to the Gateway of India, which is located at a distance of near about 19 kilometers from the Mumbai Airport. It will take you around 25 minutes to reach the spot. Once you reach the Gateway of India, you need to buy a ferry ticket to travel to Elephanta Island. The island is located at a distance of 13 kilometers from the Gateway of India and it will take you around an hour to reach there. You may note that the first ferry leaves for Elephanta at 9 AM and the frequency between each ferry is 30 minutes.
Best Time To Visit
It is advisable to visit Elephanta Island in the winter season (November-February). Summer months are very humid and hot. During the monsoon season, the sea remains unpredictable, disrupting the ferry schedules. You may also consider visiting the island in the morning as the temperature becomes very high and intolerable during the afternoon.
Other Essential Information
Location: Elephanta Island is situated at the Mumbai Harbor. The destination is located at a distance of around 10 kilometers from the eastern periphery of the city of Mumbai and 3 kilometers from the western periphery of Maharashtra’s mainland coast.
Timings: Elephanta Island is open for visiting from 9 AM to 5.30 PM, except on Mondays.
Things to Know Before You Go To Elephanta Island:
1. Beware of Monkeys - You will spot a lot of monkeys on your visit to Elephanta Island. They might be a little aggressive and snatch your food and water bottles. Keep your food items and water bottle inside your bag and avoid teasing the animals; rest assured they won’t harm you.
2. Be Prepared - Mumbai is known for its humid and hot climate and so is Elephanta Island. So, you need to take the necessary precautions when heading to the destination. You may consider wearing a good sunscreen lotion and carrying a water bottle, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of eatables.
3. There are a Total of Seven Caves - People visit Elephanta Island to experience the beauty of the world-famous Elephanta Caves. The island houses a total of 7 caves – 2 Buddhist Caves and 5 Hindu caves. The Buddhist caves are dedicated to Lord Buddha and manifest Buddhist elements whereas the Hindu caves are a dedication to the Hindu God Shiva.
4. Cave 1 forms the Main Attraction - Out of the 7 caves, Cave 1 happens to be the most stunning one. This cave has been well-maintained and showcases elements of the Hindu mythology. Some of the sculptures showcased in this cave include Nataraja, Trimurti, Ardhanarishvara, and Gangadhara, among others.
5. Gun Hill isn’t Worth the Visit - The Gun Hill shelters an open space where a gun from the British era has been showcased. The path leading to the Gun Hill is not maintained and full of litter and stray dogs. Moreover, the huge trees totally block what was once a breathtaking view worth exploring.
6. You May Encounter a Lot of Garbage - Mumbai is known to have the issue of garbage and Elephanta Island is no different. Do not be surprised to find plastic water bottles and wrappers strewn all over the place. However, the popular UNESCO site and the path leading to the major caves are more or less clean.
Tips for Visiting Elephanta Island:
-Beware of monkeys. Keep all the eatables inside your bag.
-Beware of individuals at the Gateway of India trying to get hired by you as your local guide. Many of them aren’t licensed and just pretend to be a tourist guide.
-The last ferry to Elephanta Island leaves from the Gateway of India at 2 PM. So, plan your travel accordingly and don’t be late.
-Stay hydrated at all times during your visit. Consider carrying enough water with you.
-Don’t walk around the caves. Consider traveling on a toy train as it is fun and a savior in the heat.