Elephanta is an island off the Mumbai (Bombay) coast. So the first point is to get to Mumbai. This is one of the most connected cities in India. A large number of daily flights are operated to Mumbai (BOM) from the rest of the main cities in India. So are the international connections to Mumbai.
Once in Mumbai head for the Gateway of India. This is an immensely prime landmark of Mumbai. It is from this point the ferries to Elephanta Island operate.Though heavily crowded during the peak hours, Mumbai has an excellent suburban local rail network.
From wherever you are in Mumbai, catch a local train to Churchgate or CST station. Both are terminal stations, so it is a bit easy to get out and get in. By the way CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) railway station itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Churchgate or CST, one can walk to Gateway of India along the heritage lane. It’s a 20 to 30 minute walk. Or a 10 minute taxi ride.
Alternatively you can depend on the city bus or taxi to Gateway of India. Auto-rickshaws are not permitted to this side of the city.Once in Gateway of India, you are just a 60 minute away from Elephanta by the ferry.
As you approach this locality you can easily notice the imposing Gateway of India structure facing the sea.
Officially it is sold at the counter nearby. Rs 120 (USD 3) for a return ticket. They collect Rs10 inside the boat to sit on the upper deck. It’s worth this ‘premium’ as you can get a good panoramic view, the crowd and noise is relatively less.
Buy the ticket and ask for the direction to board the boat. If a boat is not already boarding, you may need to wait till the next boat arrives. Typically every 30 minutes a boat leaves for Elephanta. Make sure that you are boarding the Elephanta boat rather than the local sightseeing boat.
On a clear day you can see the Elephanta Island in the horizon as a thin strip from Gateway of India, most likely the haze makes it impossible to see the island which is about 11 km (7 miles) from the shore. In any case halfway down your journey you can spot a small island on your left known as Butcher’s Island. This is a mooring jetty for the oil tankers. Strait ahead in the direction of the boat Elephanta emerges as forest covered island.In Elephanta, the boat will leave you at the jetty that is at the north of the island. The cave temple is a kilometers’ walk (under a mile) from the jetty.
There is a small toy train from the jetty to the base of the hill (Rs 5 one way). You may chose to walk along the pier. This will lead to the entrance to the Gharapuri village. There is a security gate and a village entry fee (Rs5) to be paid .
Further you need to trek the 120 steps to the plateau where the caves are located. This trek path goes through a packed curios, souvenir, guidebooks and T-shirt selling stalls. The ticket counter for the caves is located at the end of this path.
There is also a palanquin service (dolly) at the island for whom can not scale the steps to the caves site.
A queue at the Archeological Survey of India Ticket counter is the last point to cross before you enter the courtyard of the main cave in Elephanta.
Despite the noisy crowd you may encounter inside main cave in Elephanta , this image of Lord Shiva with his closed eyelids and in a deep contemplating attitude would be the most satisfying piece of art you would ever see in India.Rather this is the highest watermark of medieval Indian art tradition.