Delhi to Ladakh and back – in a Nano!!

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
The Tata Nano just after the Rohtang Pass

Driving to Ladakh in any kind of a vehicle (especially when the roads still have snow / black ice on them) can be a tricky affair for the most experienced of drivers. But when someone decides to venture out in a Nano (the ‘baby’ car from the Tata Automobiles stable with a reputation for catching fire without the slightest of provocations) and comes back in the same car to tell the story, it is another thing altogether. Sanjay Madan and Pankaj Chanana did just that: they left their Landcruisers home and ventured out in a Nano. The following is a story of their journey, as narrated by them. (we have done minimal editing to it). (Sanjay will be coming to the Kunzum Travel Cafe in August to narrate his story in person. If you want to join the interactive talk, let us know and we will inform you when it is scheduled). Read on…

It didn’t take too long to take the decision and finally add this little car to our fleet that includes the Land Cruiser. TATA NANO – much talked about as ‘the common man’s car meant to be driven on city roads’ made its way to the rooftop of the world and proved itself to be the “TOUGH TODDLER” that it is being called.

On 29 May, we began our journey to Leh – Ladakh from Delhi and reached Nalagarh Fort, about 285 kms north of the city. Fuel average on the 1st day was 20.4 kms/lts with the A/C running.

30 May – Drove to Manali (290 kms from Nalagarh). It was late evening by the time we reached. Since we were going uphill, the average was 16 kms/lts on A/C.

31 May – Started at 0530 hrs and made our way to Rohtang Pass at the height of 3980 mts. While this little car was scaling heights, heads continued to turn …everyone had that amazed, questioning look – is this the TATA Nano?

Made a stop at the Tandi Petrol Station (2573 mts) and got an affirmation from them that it was the first one to climb this height. In fact, they hadn’t even seen the car before that day… Fuel average at this point was 15.5 kms/lts.

Reached Hotel Ibex, Jispa late afternoon and heard that the roads further were closed. The next 6 days were nothing but a painful wait for the route to open.

6 June – Met an Army Colonel Mr. K.S Kajal, enroute to Ladakh who assured us that if the route opened then we would be able to make our way further along with their convoy.

Finally, late noon, we made our way towards Barlacha La Pass at height of 4892 mts.  It was a tough patch with 6-10fts of snow walls on both sides and we crossed this 20 kms patch with snow-clad hills with the help of the army personnel.

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
White Beauty!

Around late evening, we reached Sarchu (4253 mts height) and stayed in the Army transit camps – thanks to Colonel Kajal.

7 June – We packed our bags in the morning and drove on. Just after Gata Loops, we had a near death experience where the car skidded on black ice and went out of control for a microsecond. The tyres had to be deflated to get the traction on road.

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
Skidded on Black ice - Barely managed to save insurance company's money

After that we crossed Lachalang La Pass (5065 mts) and Tanglang La Pass (5360 mts), and finally reached Leh that evening. However, our journey wasn’t over yet – the aim was to drive this Lil’ Car to Khardungla Top, which at 18380 ft is the highest motorable road in the world. Fuel average here was 14.8 km/lt.

8 June Took the permit from Leh DC Office and headed towards Khardungla Top. Soon, the ‘tough toddler’ scaled new heights and proudly made its mark on the highest pass in the world! It was quite an achievement.

9 June – Crossed Fotu La Pass at 4108 mts, reached Kargil at 0400 hrs, and sank into the bed immediately. Began the journey to Srinagar at 0800 hrs. The highlight of this route was Zojila Pass at 3529 mts, famous for it’s difficult passage; even the regular commuters face difficulties here. As if this wasn’t enough, it started to rain, making the journey more challenging. Fuel average was 15 kms/lts here. Finally reached Srinagar by 1800 hrs.

The next day itself, we started the journey back home; drove straight for 26 hrs covering a distance of 900 kms from Srinagar to Delhi (another performance test for the car) and reached Delhi by the evening. The average here was 24 kms/lt.

Like they say – Where this is a will, there is a way! Cheers!

Sanjay Madan / Pankaj Chanana
4241,D-4,Vasant Kunj,
New Delhi-110070.
Ph- 09717080066, 09868094254

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
The Team

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
Tough Toddler Leaving its Footprints on the Highest Mountain Passes

Tata Nano - Himalayan Expedition 2010
Who needs a 4x4 on this terrain?!

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  1. Great achievement with excellent photos. I can understand how difficult it could be to drive on snowy roads. rnWould be interested to know their story in detail.

  2. Wow… !!! amazing! people struggle with best of the cars on that terrain… and Nano doing it successfully is great. TATA should be endorsing your story to promote the car.

  3. That’s great send some pictures and smallrigjtup about your travel in nano iwil try to get it published in there magzine

  4. This is an amazing post! My Dad has got one to drive within the city but never imagined it was capable of scaling such heights leave alone the black ice. Fantastic!

  5. This is an excellent stuff for Tata Nano to promote itself….thanks to yu folks….rnYou guys surely love adventure :)

  6. Thanks for the write up and the photos. Nice to read.rnrnInfact we will be trekking from Palmo (Manali) to Padum (Kargil) and doing a jeep safari in & around Leh/Ladakh from 21-08-10 to 11-09-10. I will be keeping your writeup in mind when I go there.

  7. Well done guys..Me and my team discovered a new route from Chumur to Tso moriri in 2008 on Royal enfields. The route is extremely tough. It will be worth to try the Nano on that route to add to your records.

  8. Hey Sanjay n Pankaj…Forget the nano…Hats off to you two for being daredevils n having the courage to try this out..That’s the true spirit of adventure

  9. Dear Sanjay & Pankaj,

    If i am not mistaken you guys are from KV JNU passout 93 batch???? Great men good to see you doing all thses kind to activities some how i did recoganised you
    This is Vishal Verma in same batch pass out. I was with Pankaj’s mate. My contact no: 9717009397.

    Do call me will talk further…..


  10. This sounds like "well paid" "suicide attempt!"

    Curious to know – the total bet money involved – and how much Tata put on this. Well, and if you both had lost your life, how much would Tata have done for your dad & mom?

    Would you mind – your dad reading this!
    Never do this again!

  11. Chandra Bhan Singh, that was a silliest comment I’ve read! I wonder why you’re even on this travel site! I’m going next – wanna join me? If you do, please bear in mind, you won’t get a sausage from Tata Motors… And yes, neither will your kids get anything from Tatasons if you cop it! So think before you leap, friend… 😉

  12. Chadra Bhan, that was the silliest comment I’ve read! I wonder why you’re even on this site.

    I’m going next – wanna join me? But remember, Tatasons won’t give your kids a sausage if you cop it! So, think hard before you leap… 😉

  13. Hi Ajay,
    A lot late but thanks for sharing the story.
    Mix bag of responses as i can see, but you know thats the charm of it. Difficult to believe unless you have seen or attempted it yourselves.

    Ajay, as discussed in past I would love to come for a get together at your cafe. I would be glad to share my experiences with fellow like minded travellers.

    Also that we now soon begin the expeditions for the year and it would be my pleasure to share driving tips for this terrain for the ones who wish to travel.

    Furthermore thanks to all for all the appreciations/comments.

    Answering few ..
    Rajiv tyagi @ 100% in agreement with your comment to chander bhan that people who love adventure belive in living life on front foot(world cup season…lol). However taking nessecary precautions and right decesions is a must when you dare to drive this kind of terrain and especially on a little machine like " NANO ". But as all say big things come in small packages hence made this attempt. I have driven same terrain in other cars as well but this was totally breathtaking.

    As this is a very personal opinion, i would say sitting at home would be no different when it comes to destiny choosing an end for you.I believe in following my heart and God believes in supporting me for what i do !

    Though this was not sheer publicity attempt but it certainly made us land straight in many minds & hearts and little more rewarding was also in Limca Book of Records.

    We also went ahead after this expedition to participate in one of the World’s Toughest Car rally Raid-De-Himalaya on Nano and again it became the first NANO ever to reach Kunzum pass,Kaza and Tabo(spiti valley)and this time on rally speed.

    Praveen boragi@ We organize Self Drive Expeditions to Ladakh and Rajasthan. This year our fixed departure trips to Ladakh will start from 18th june… if you wish to join you can contact me at

    Pankaj@ Thanks. Will try Chumur to Tso moriri some day but not in Nano now, it would be my Land Cruiser this time or may be something else…

  14. Hmmm, sounds real interesting. And will be quite a challenge considering the neighbourhoods you will be crossing on the way :)

    Would you like to join us on some of our future journeys? Sign up for FREE at Club Kunzum:

    Look forward to seeing you on Kunzum more often.


  16. By the way, whenever in future you have to start your journey again…let me know/message…I will join with my Nano from Delhi…

  17. The story may have become ‘historical’, but the memories were renewed with Christmas (cake). While having the cake with some friends, I referred to your feat – a rather adventurous feat accomplished by you guys, and showed this post to them. Merry Christmas, once again, and wish for a great New Year 2012 and beyond.

  18. Some guys who have commented here, so ignorant they are. Just because they know how to drive barely and maybe own a hatchback or sedan costing a few lakhs more than the Nano, they think that they have all the rights to demean and belittle the Nano. The folks who look down upon the Nano are the ones who haven’t even touched a Nano, let alone driven it. And for the information of those folks who think the story is fabricated — even the puny 100cc Kinetic Honda has climbed the Khardungla pass.

  19. great job guys. next time you people make any such trip do take me along. i am from chandigarh (Mohali). plan asap. my contact number is 09888100133

  20. Mr. Sanjay the effort you have made in Raid-De-Himalaya is one of the golden blocks in Indian automobile arena. I just wanted to know how long it took to reach Kaza from Manali and if you have difficulty faced any to reach there with “Nano”.

  21. Great job! Could you please, mention here how was the performance of nano car when climbing steep road, what was the sound of engine when in speed and steep road?

  22. Its a awesome experience ………………we had took our Nano car twice to Puri and then once to kolkata

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