The Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra are a spectacular place where history, adventure, and natural beauty come together. The caves have become a popular tourist destination in India, which comes as no surprise since the caves have also been considered a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. The Elephanta Caves date back to more than 3,000 years ago and are situated on an island called Elephanta Island. It can be reached in an hour or so by boat from the Gateway of India. They take their name after an elephant statue that was found by Portuguese invaders, in the mid-1500s. Read on as we explore the best things to do and what not to miss when you visit the Elephanta Caves, as well as how to get there and some useful travel tips. Here’s our comprehensive travel guide to Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra.
Things to do
The Elephanta Caves is a complex with a total of seven sculpted caves, the main chamber, two additional side chambers, as well as shrines and courtyards. Here are some of the highlights and best things to do while exploring the caves.
The Trimurti Sadashiva sculpture
As some caves are dedicated to the Buddhist culture and others praise the Hindu gods and goddesses, the sculptures in the Elephanta Caves are a blend of traditions and elements from both cultures. Standing tall and measuring 20 feet (6 meters) in height, the Trimurti Sadashiva sculpture is by far the most prominent and notable in the complex. It depicts a three-faced image of Lord Shiva, one of the main deities in the Hinduism.
The main cave
No matter how much time you have reserved for a visit to the Elephanta Caves, make sure you visit the main cave, as it remains the prime attraction in the complex. The cave is remarkable through its size and spectacular sculptures. It boasts a main entrance on the north side, two additional ones on the sides, and a central hall that features six rows of imposing columns.
Take time to explore the rest of the complex
Although the main cave remains at the core of the Elephanta Caves, the complex has plenty more to offer, so make sure you take the time to explore the other six caves, wander through the courtyards, and check out the little on-site museum - it’s free to visit.
The ferry ride
The ride to the caves itself is nothing short of spectacular. Make sure you take in the beautiful views of the Mumbai Harbor, the Wellington pier with its plethora of luxury yachts, as well as the Gateway of India in the background.
Best time to visit
If the Elephanta Caves are on your bucket list and you’re planning a trip to India, keep in mind that between June and August, it’s monsoon season, and the ferry services are suspended.
Tourist guides are available and will likely approach you upon arrival, but they’re not necessary, especially if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative or you’d like to make your own itinerary. You can just buy an inexpensive copy of the caves’ guide and visit at your own pace.
Watch out for monkeys
Some of the cutest but also sneakiest inhabitants on Elephanta Island are the monkeys. While some will advise you that the monkeys might be aggressive, they’re usually after your food or water bottle, so as long as you don’t keep any of them in plain sight, you’re good to go.
It takes a lot of walking
Visiting the caves, especially if you plan on seeing all seven of them on the two hills, will likely require a lot of walking. Add the humidity and heat on top of it, and it will leave you exhausted, so make sure you stay hydrated and have plenty of water with you.
Unfortunately, the caves are not easily accessible. People unable to walk long distances or climb the stairs can take the toy train after they get off from the ferry, and then hire a chair to be carried up the hill. However, there will still be some stairs to climb when going in and out of the caves, and on and off the ferry.
How to get there
Since the Elephanta Caves are located on Elephanta Island, they can only be reached by water. There is a ferry that will take you to the island. The boat departs every half an hour between 9 am to 2 pm, and the ride will take approximately an hour. There are standard and luxury boats, the latter being more comfortable. Tickets can be bought at the booking office near the departure point and cost around 3 USD per person for the round trip.
Once you get to the island, you’ll have to walk for approximately one kilometer (0.6 miles) to the caves, and then climb around 120 steps to reach the cave’s entrance.
If you’re looking for an alternative to walking, take the toy train. However, you’ll still have to climb some stairs to reach the caves.
How to get tickets
Tickets for the Elephanta Caves can be bought at the ticket counter at the entrance to the caves. Children below the age of 15 can enter for free, while the price for adults varies, as follows: Less than 1 USD for Indians, and 8 USD for foreigners.
Elephanta Caves information
Address: Gharapuri, Maharashtra 400094
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 8 USD
Department of tourism: Maharashtra
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