Dehradun is located in the Doon Valley on the foothills of the Himalayas. The city is famous for its picturesque landscape, climate and a perfect holiday destination especially for those in the plains belt of northern India which faces scorching heat during summers. It is well connected and in proximity to Himalayan tourist destinations such as Mussoorie, Auli Haridwar and Rishikesh. Due to the ideal location, it is a sort of a launch pad for various touristy options especially if you are looking to get onto Himalayan pilgrimage circuit and some other beautiful places nestled in the ranges.

Earlier this week I got an opportunity to go to Dehradun on an official trip and the trip was after close to 20 years. Last time I had gone to Dehradun in January 1997 in connection with the audit of one of our stocking units while I was working with CEAT tyres. During these 2 decades, the town has undergone a big transformation along with becoming a capital city of newly carved state Uttarakhand. I have vague memories of the earlier trip as I was not able to travel around much due to work commitments. Even this time around, my trip was very short and there was packed agenda on both the days. The only window which was available to move around was on early morning on day 2 which was from 5.00am to 9.00am. I was keen to ensure that this time I do get out on to the street and get some flair of the city.

There were four other colleagues who also wanted to go out and we had couple of options which included going to Mussoorie, Sahastradhara or Robbers cave (Gucchu Paani). One of our colleagues suggested a trip to Forest Research Institute (FRI) as he had been there in one of his earlier trips and showed us the pictures he had captured. After seeing the pictures, the decision was unanimous to go there as none of had been to that place.

I must say that the key deciding point of the trip to FRI with unanimity was the moment when our colleague mentioned that few of the recent Bollywood blockbusters were shot in the campus. These movies include Student of the Year, Paan Singh Tomar apart from many more.

The Forest Research Institute (FRI) is an institute of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education and is a premier institution in the field of forestry research in India In 1991, it was declared a deemed university by the University Grants Commission. The Forest Research Institute campus hosts the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA), the staff college that trains officers selected for the Indian Forest Service (IFS). It was founded in 1878 as the British Imperial Forest School and later Indian Forest College was established in 1938.

This is one of the oldest institutions of its kind and has been acclaimed worldwide. FRI campus is spread over 450 hectares with lush green lawns and tall trees surrounding it with the backdrop of Himalayan Mountains. The main building is an impressive structure which experts say is a fusion between Greco-Roman and Colonial styles of architecture. The construction of this building was completed in 1926 and I must say that the building has a stunning architecture. For those interested, the institute has a well-developed infrastructure of well-equipped laboratories, library, herbarium, botanical garden, printing press and experimental field areas for conducting forestry research which matches the best of its kind anywhere in the world. The library has one of the richest collections of books on forest science with more than 1.5 lac books. The institute offers post-graduation and diploma courses in forestry and allied sciences.

Our cab took us to one of the side gates. The small road from there takes to the backside of the building. As we reached there around 7.00am, we were told by the security that we have to leave our vehicle at the gate. Vehicles are allowed inside not before 9.30am. There is a nominal entry ticket for Rs.5/-. We decided to walk down as the beautiful view of tall trees adorning both sides of the road leading towards the main building was welcoming us. There were many morning walkers and joggers on the road already. I guess that might have been the reason not to allow vehicles during the morning hours.

After about a walk of 500 meters, we got the glimpse of the backside of the magnificent building in the backdrop of rising sun. As we ambled towards front side through the corridors, we came across some stunning view of the interiors and magnificent architectural excellence on the display. Indeed, those who still remember the scenes from the Bollywood movie Student of the Year, can connect with this. The verandas and corridors of the building were very impressive and picturesque. It was not crowded at that time which gave us the opportunity to leisurely stroll around the place. I must say that though we just spent about 30 minutes meandering through the corridors, it is not adequate if you want to completely absorb and appreciate the design of the galleries, roofs and pillars.

The front side of the building had well-manicured lush green lawns. The edifice of the building has been symmetrically built with the porch, lawns and the road leading to the main gate. We walked through the campus and headed towards the front side gate for exit. As the sun was rising, it provided a beautiful view off sunlight filtering through the trees. These views are something which people like me do not find in the cities and hence added a quotient of charm during the morning walk.

After about an hour in the campus, we returned back for hotel as we had a long day ahead but a trip during the day time is needed so that one can go inside the campus, library and museums.

Planning a vacation trip to Dehradun

Dehradun is well connected with many cities through air, train and bus service. There are few overnight trains to and from Delhi. Indian Railway runs one of its premium trains Shatabdi Express from Delhi on daily basis. Dehradun airport, which is interestingly called as Jolly Grant airport, is connected via direct flight from Delhi and the flight takes about an hour. Air India, Jet Airways, Indigo and Spice-jet have flights connecting Dehradun from various cities.

It is one of the ideal destinations for a vacation trip or a weekend sortie from Delhi. Whatever, I could absorb about the city in just 2 days, a family vacation trip in the near future is already on my bucket list and you can expect to hear few more travel tales from me about Dehradun in the near future.