Elephanta Caves are sculpted caves on Elephanta Island. The island is also known as Gharapuri whose translation means “the city of caves”. Elephanta Island is located in the Mumbai Harbor and about 10 km (6.3 miles) to the east of the city of Mumbai. The caves are dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries. There are two groups of caves on the island: a group of 5 Hindu caves and a smaller group of 2 Buddhist caves (we only saw the 5 Hindu caves). Elephanta Caves were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
I have been avoiding to go to Elephanta Island despite my curiosity because I did not like the fact that you have to spend an hour each way on a ferry to get there. Then my Japanese friend came to visit and asked if we could go to Elephanta Island. I recommended Kanheri Caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park to her because the caves are as impressive (So said the one who had never seen Elephanta Island. Now having seen them both, I would say this is true), and they are much easier to access by car. However, she wanted to see Elephanta Caves because they are the World Heritage Site. I have always wondered about Elephanta Island and my friend came to visit Mumbai all the way from Singapore (her current home), I agreed to take her there.
Prior to our trip to Elephanta Island, I did a little research and came to find out that Elephanta Island was in a harbor. Needless to say, I felt much better because of its location and enjoyed the boat ride without anxiety. The ferry rides were actually relaxing. The water was calm, but I have heard that depending on the time, the water can be rough. (We left Apollo Bunder around 10:20 a.m. and Elephanta Island around 1:20 p.m.) There were many boats around in the harbor, so even if something happens (in case you are wondering, yes, I am a worrier), someone will come to rescue you. Plus, the boat was well equipped with life jackets as you will see in my photos. I apologize for my paranoia.
If I may tell you from the conclusion, Elephanta Caves were much cooler than I had imagined. In fact, I loved it. I also realized how much I love ruins and stone sculptures. I did have a fabulous time visiting the sites in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2011 and Elephanta Caves reminded me of the fond memories of my trip to Siem Reap with my friends. I wish I discovered this a bit earlier. As it is getting much hotter in April and May, it would be very hard to bring my children there. I can easily imagine that I will get an earful of complains from my children. An hour-long return trip felt a bit long to me after having climbed and walked around for a while in the heat which might not be as pleasant to do with the kids. In general, my children do not do well in the heat. This is just my thoughts.
HOW TO GO TO ELEPHANTA ISLAND
Ferries leave from Apollo Bunder in Colaba, Mumbai which is where the Gateway of India is and by Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Bunder is a Marathi word for “pier for embarkation and disembarkation of passengers and goods”.
Ticket cost IDR 180 (about USD 3) for round trip. I read online that the first ferry leaves at 9:00 a.m. from Apollo Bunder and after that a ferry leaves every hour. However, when we got to the ticket counter around 10:20, we were told that the ferries leave every 10 minutes. We walked to the designated gate and got on the ferry. The ferry looked almost full by the time we went on board. Within 5 minutes, the ferry left the dock.
Once you get off the boat, there is a train that is waiting for the passengers. The train ride was unbelievably cheap. You can also walk, but the walk is a bit long.
Train Ride: 5 Rs.
Be prepared to walk up many stairs to get to the caves. It’s nice that the stairs are covered, but it was warm as there was no breeze.
HOURS 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed on MONDAYS
Tourist Tax: 10 Rs.
Entry Fee: Foreigners 250 Rs. Indians Rs. 10
I hope you enjoyed the virtual tour of Elephanta Island!