The eerie location of the devastating 1986 Chernobyl disaster is today, a popular tourist attraction for visitors on a tour of Ukraine. Situated in central Ukraine, close to the border of Belarus, tours to Chernobyl often leave from the capital of Kyiv and a day excursion usually includes a walkthrough of the abandoned ghost town of Pripyat, which once housed the workers of the nuclear plant and their families, providing a frozen-in-time snapshot of life in the Soviet Union.
This dark tourism destination draws thousands of visitors every year. The Chernobyl Disaster was the result of a malfunction in reactor number 4 during a routine test. The following nuclear explosion dispersed dangerous amounts of radioactive particles across the country and across Europe. It is unclear how many people died as a result of exposure to radiation, but it is estimated to be in the thousands.
Today, Chernobyl is enclosed within a 30-kilometre exclusion zone. Visitors on a tour to Chernobyl are only allowed access into the exclusion zone if they are part of a tour or have an access pass. Once inside, visitors are able to get as close as 200 metres to the exploded reactor, now housed within a protective sarcophagus, and can walk through the abandoned streets of Pripyat, which is slowly being overrun by nature, as trees and foliage swallow up this once-bustling town.
Things to see on a trip to Chernobyl include the ghostly Central Square of Pripyat and the eerie remains of Pripyat Amusement Park with its outdated Ferris Wheel and rusty bumper cars, which was due to open just days after the disaster happened. Of course, the Soviet-era power plant itself is the highlight and main stop on an organised tour to Chernobyl and a poignant reminder of the power and dangers of nuclear technology. Chernobyl is deemed entirely safe for short-term visits and visitors are screened for dangerous particles as they exit the exclusion zone. Interestingly, there are even a handful of on-site hotels where the most adventurous travellers can dare to spend a night within the exclusion zone, although these guests must adhere to a strict code of conduct for their own safety.
Whether you’re fascinated by Soviet-era history, you’re curious about the events of 1986 or you’ve been interested in Chernobyl ever since watching the popular television series, a trip to Chernobyl is sure to be a truly unique, poignant and once-in-a-lifetime experience.