The Elephanta Caves are among the most beautiful, historically significant attractions in Mumbai. Situated on an island off the coast, this UNESCO World Heritage Site features multiple rock-hewn cave temples and statues dating back to around the 7th century AD, including a celebrated statue of Shiva in his three-faced form.
There are two groups of caves at the site: one featuring five caves dedicated to Hindu deities, and a second group with two Buddhist shrines. While there's a lot of debate about the true origins of the caves, there are elements of South Indian Badami Chalukya architecture as well as architectural styles from the Gupta Empire.
Many city tours come to the island, and going with a guide can help you make sense of the caves, as the signage here isn’t the greatest.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Elephanta Caves are a must-visit for those with an interest in history, art, or religion.
- Bring water, sun protection, and comfortable shoes.
- Beware of naughty monkeys, particularly on the stairs leading up to the attraction.
- This attraction is not suitable for those with compromised mobility, and accessing it requires climbing lots of steps.
How to Get There
Elephanta Island is located in the Mumbai Harbour, about 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) northeast of the Gateway of India monument, from which boats to the attraction depart. Once on the island, travelers can take a miniature train up to a tall, steep set of stairs that lead up to the monument.
When to Get There
The caves are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 5:30pm. It's best to get there first thing in the morning to beat crowds and hot temperatures, but if you come in the evening, try to get on the last boat of the day, when things have quieted down. Note that visiting during monsoon season may make for a choppier boat ride to the island and back.
You may see lots of monkeys while on the island (and all over India, in general, especially in rural areas). On Elephanta Island, you’re most likely to encounter them on the stairs leading up to the monument, and they can be aggressive and carry disease. Do not feed them, and keep an eye on any possessions you may have, from food to the eyeglasses on your head, as they are known to pickpocket the inattentive.