Gateway of India from boat
The place of caves - Elephanta Island, Mumbai
Built around the 7th Century, the island was previously known as Gharapuri and was renamed, by the Portugese, as Elephanta after they discovered a great, stone elephant sculpture near their point of port. It's a good destination to flee the commotion of the city, and the boat trip is a cooling escape from the Mumbai heat. The Elephanta experience is around 4 hours for the round trip, as it lies 10km off the Mumbai coastline. The boat journey is just under an hour but the time passes incredibly quickly as you watch the Mumbai skyline drift away from sight. The island is a wonderful mix of beautiful lofty trees and crumbling mountains.
Upon arrival to Elephanta, a small toy train will take you to the entrance. Although it is only a five-minute walk, the train is a delightful way to travel along the edge of the water. Make your way up the paved steps, bordered by countless food and souvenir stalls. Here you will find Indian market sellers, all encouraging you to stop and have a quick look. If shopping is not your thing, avoiding eye contact is your best bet. However, if you fancy picking up some hand carved trinkets make sure you master the art of haggling and get the best price. This walk is vaguely steep and fairly long so make sure you have a rest before the caves. Monkeys line the trees and may occasionally try to steal your snacks. I had an interesting tug of war with my bottle of water (Monkey 0, Emily 1)!
The caves and temples are an absolute wonder. Each cave is slightly different and the hand carved sculptures tower magnificently, murmuring the secrets of stories untold. Incense ensnares the senses, and the intricate carvings are incredibly well preserved.
Many areas require you to remove your shoes, as a sign of religious respect so be aware. It is best to visit the caves on a weekday as it is much quieter and you can wander through the corridors discovering secret rooms and taking some extraordinary pictures.
- A round boat trip to Elephanta Island will cost 130Rps. You will find many street sellers at the Gateway of India, but it is just as simple to purchase your tickets from the dock itself. It will cost you an extra 10Rps to sit on the top deck if you wish, but you do get an equally spectacular view from the bottom deck.
- The toy train tickets can be bought from the stall on your right when you first get off the boat. Tickets are 5Rps return- so keep hold of your ticket. Beware at this point for “guides” offering to show you around- they can be very expensive and inaccurate. They also specifically target lost looking tourists so bring a guidebook instead!
- The entrance fee to the caves and temples costs 250Rps for tourists and 10Rps for Indian Nationals. This price difference is common for Indian tourist hotspots and is instigated by the Indian Government.
Emily Rycroft. (Follow Emily on Twitter @emily_rycroft)