Dark Tourism: Chernobyl

The latest HBO series, Chernobyl, provided viewers with the opportunity to see what exactly happened over those fateful days at the site of Chernobyl and the city of Pripyat in what is now Ukraine back in 1986. But the site of Chernobyl which is arguably where the worst nuclear disaster in the world occurred has lured tourists for a number of years once the area was deemed okay for tour operators to enter. With the recent success of the limited tv series, Chernobyl has seen a steady increase in visitors wanting to gain a first-hand insight into the area and how it is still drenched in radiation to this day. So what does a tour to Chernobyl look like?

What To Expect

There are a variety of tour operators who offer tours to the “exclusion zone” where the disaster occurred and all of them have licensed guides. You cannot enter without one. Most of the tours are just day trips from Kyiv and give tour groups the opportunity to have lunch onsite with food brought in from Kyiv and its surroundings. Before you even arrive onsite though each tourist is briefed with a video on radiation safety protocols. Then, the drive from Kyiv which takes about an hour or so to the zone begins.

Once you are physically in Chernobyl your guide will take you to the museum and then to a number of abandoned buildings including the Chernobyl Power Plant itself. You will see the giant cement and metal casing which surrounds reactor four which is the one that exploded. Your guide will be armed with a Geiger-Mueller Meter which makes what sounds like a loud static noise. The higher the radiation the more static you will hear. You will be told to not touch anything as you are brought around the sites and this is because the buildings, trees, and literally everything else is still irradiated.

The Best Tours

With so many tour operators to choose from and the recent surge in tourism due to the show, there are many to choose from and all cost about $100 for the day. But there are a certain few that stand out and have a good safety record which is the most important thing when visiting a site such as this. SoloEast is known to provide the best tour in the region with Chernobyl Visit and Global Village Tours coming in a close second. Definitely come armed with a good camera to capture the haunting images of abandoned Ferris wheels, schools, and hospitals. It will be an experience unlike any other and give the visitor a true glimpse into a very dark event and how 33 years later the area is still uninhabitable.