This story was published before war came to Ukraine and suspended all travel there.

See Photos Taken on Illegal Visits to Chernobyl's Dead Zone

Thirty-one years after the worst nuclear disaster in history, a group of self-proclaimed “stalkers” makes illegal trips into the abandoned radioactive city.

An estimated 200 tons of radioactive material festers beneath a steel containment structure inside Chernobyl , the site of the worst nuclear catastrophe in history. Weightless, odorless, and invisible to the human eye, it has leached into the ground and swept across the anguished landscape.

Today, the 30-kilometer radius around the most contaminated area—the exclusion zone—is a mausoleum of man’s technological folly. Its ruination has become a symbol of the failed utopian ideals of the Soviet Union, a warning of humanity’s capacity to wreak ecological havoc, and a reminder of both our fragility and resilience. ( Read more about the Chernobyl disaster. )

Thirty-one years after being designated a dead zone, the living roam its corridors once again. Over the past decade, an increasing number of self-proclaimed “stalkers” regularly enter the zone illegally. Cloaked in darkness and camouflage, they navigate miles of irradiated forest, sleep in abandoned villages, and watch the sunrise unfurl over Pripyat's crumbling Brezhnev baroque rooftops.

Knyazev (nicknamed JimmSide), rests in an abandoned pig shed on the journey to Pripyat. "I'm attracted by the freedom of the zone," he says. "It's a huge area of ​​2,500 square kilometers and virtually free of people. You can go into any house, any apartment, live there, feel history."

“You feel like the last person on Earth,” says Eugene Knyazev , who estimates that over the course of 50 trips, he has spent a year of his life in the exclusion zone. “You wander through empty villages, cities, roads. This is a magical sensation.”

THE POST-NUCLEAR TRAVELER

The term stalker originated in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1971 science fiction novel, Roadside Picnic , in which alien invaders have left dangerous artifacts in areas known as Zones. The stalkers infiltrate these highly-regulated Zones to steal and sell the objects on the black market. The story was later adapted into Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Stalker .

Published 15 years before the Chernobyl disaster, the Strugatskys’ book proved prophetic.

On April 26, 1986, a series of mistakes at the Chernobyl power plant compounded into the worst nuclear disaster in history (only Fukushima shares its maximum level-7 rating). An explosion at reactor number four released a cloud of radioactive dust that poisoned millions of acres across Ukraine , Belarus , and Russia and forced the evacuation of nearly a hundred thousand people. In addition to the human toll, the political and economic consequences were profound and enduring.

Inspired by memories of Chernobyl—real and imagined—a new subculture emerged. Organized groups with names, symbols, and rituals began to enter the area illegally.

“[Stalkers] see their hobby as an escape from an overly-regulated world: an escape into another reality in which fragments of social collapse can be grasped and contemplated. A lot of these places, the Zone included, are fenced off by a perimeter, and there are political implications in transgressing it, beyond the sheer thrill of the forbidden,” says Stuart Lindsay , a Chernobyl researcher at the University of Stirling.

Stalkers see themselves as both students of history and documentarians—preventing the memory of Chernobyl from falling into oblivion while breaking free from the eternal haste of the city.

“You go to one of the largest museums of Soviet life—you literally can touch history,” says Alexander Sherekh, a physicist who has made the trip 11 times. “You escape the 40-hour work week, life in a concrete box, and enter a completely different world. Instead of society’s problems and the ubiquity of smartphones and social networks, it’s an opportunity to be alone with yourself.”

CYBERSPACE VS. REALITY

The Ukrainian video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a first-person video game set in the exclusion zone, was released in 2007 and has been highly influential in the movement.

“We never encouraged the players to visit illegally—you need to differentiate between virtual world of the game and the real one,” says Oleg Yavorsky, one of the game’s creators. “Obviously the desire to see with their own eyes has been pretty strong.”

Critics of both the video game and stalker movement argue that it’s youthful self-indulgence—the reduction of real tragedy into post-apocalyptic sci-fi entertainment. The reality may be more nuanced.

“A lot of the original survivors felt like they were viewed as circus animals or freaks by outsiders—predominantly by Western media,” Lindsay says. “The second generation of survivors—who are more numerous and widely-settled than the initial liquidators—are now going through their own health issues related to Chernobyl. In my understanding, the older people are content to let the younger ones approach the Zone using the tools of their time.”

Most stalkers agree that they have a meaningful connection to the place and what some consider exploitation they see as homage.

  • Nat Geo Expeditions

“S.T.A.L.K.E.R. [was intended] to warn mankind of dangers when playing with unknown forces of nature,” Yavorsky says. “At the same time the game was meant to generate interest of the young audience in history. We hope the lesson of the Chernobyl accident will be remembered, so as the deed of the people who paid their lives to save us all from the nuclear aftermath.”

"NO DOSIMETER, NO RADIATION"

Three decades after the city was hastily abandoned, lush vegetation has overtaken the ruins and wildlife roams freely. Although low levels of background radiation make it relatively safe for tourists to visit sanctioned routes, the stalkers are notorious for their lax safety standards—ingesting unfiltered water, eating berries, and handling contaminated objects.

In fact, “no dosimeter, no radiation” is a stalker proverb. Scientists like Vadim Chumak, Head of the Department of Dosimetry and Radiation Hygiene at the National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, challenge this notion. "The stalkers belong to the same category of humans as base jumpers and shark swimmers—this type of character is adrenaline addicted and is attracted by any sort of risk and danger,” he says. "Since radiation has no smell or taste, evolutionally we do not have built-in biological sensors for detection. As a result, the feeling of risk associated with ionizing radiation is naturally biased. If base jumper smashes against the land, it is quite definite. If cancer develops 15 years after exposure, it is less obvious," he says. Even if radiation is reasonably low, unstable structures, hidden pits, rivers and lakes, and wild animals can pose an even larger threat, Chumak says.

Despite a disregard for their own health, the stalkers acknowledge the threat of contamination within their community. “The most absurd thing in the zone is a man and his thirst for profit,” Knyazev says. “People take out the forest for sale, the contaminated metal from the cemeteries of radioactive technology and sell them as raw materials. It threatens with new cancers for those who will have contact with these materials. After all, from the forest you can make cribs, and with iron, toys.”

As of 2017, there are 448 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide and nearly 60 more under construction.

Pierpaolo Mittica is a contributing photographer to Parallelozero and is based in Venice, Italy. Follow him on Instagram @pierpaolomittica .

Read This Next

  • History & Culture

U.S. nuclear testing's devastating legacy lingers 30 years later

These japanese mythical creatures were born from disaster, iceland bracing for unprecedented volcanic eruption.

  • Environment

Hurricanes are escalating more quickly than ever. Here’s why.

  • Wildlife Watch
  • Paid Content

History & Culture

  • History Magazine
  • Best of the World
  • Mind, Body, Wonder
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Your US State Privacy Rights
  • Children's Online Privacy Policy
  • Interest-Based Ads
  • About Nielsen Measurement
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information
  • Nat Geo Home
  • Attend a Live Event
  • Book a Trip
  • Inspire Your Kids
  • Shop Nat Geo
  • Visit the D.C. Museum
  • Learn About Our Impact
  • Support Our Mission
  • Advertise With Us
  • Customer Service
  • Renew Subscription
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Work at Nat Geo
  • Sign Up for Our Newsletters
  • Contribute to Protect the Planet

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved

Matador Original Series

chernobyl illegal tour

This Photographer Took an Illegal Tour of Chernobyl. Here’s What He Saw.

D armon Richter is Chernobyl-obsessed. He took his first trip to Chernobyl in 2013 as part of a licenced tour, and has been leading and designing tours of the Exclusion Zone since 2016. In total, he’s visited Chernobyl 20 times on multiple day trips, including once illegally with a “stalker” — as those who visit the area illegally are known — as his guide.

“After that first visit, I don’t know if I necessarily would have wanted to go back to Chernobyl again,” he explains during an interview with Matador Network . “The tour experience that I had wasn’t mind-blowing. It was quite sensational. We had a large group of 30 people being rushed about to rooms and abandoned buildings with various dolls, gas masks, and all these props set up that felt somehow inauthentic.”

Sensational props seen in official tours of Chernobyl

Photo: Darmon Richter

But after spending more time in Ukraine and getting to know people who work in the tourism industry in Chernobyl, he got increasingly interested in the past and present of the evacuation zone. Throughout the years and the many visits, he gathered enough expert knowledge to write Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide , a recently published photo guide-cum-travelogue that takes readers way beyond the clichés most of us have of the area.

Chernobyl A Stalkers’ Guide Book Cover

Photo: FUEL Publishing

Taking an licensed tour is an exclusive experience reserved almost entirely to foreigners who don’t think twice about dropping $100-$200 for a day visit. And they do it in larger and larger numbers each year; in 2019, 124,000 visitors took an official tour of Chernobyl. But for the less-financially privileged locals whose country has been forever changed by the nuclear accident, and who grew up in the shadow of Chernobyl, there’s one much more affordable way to see this place for themselves and witness their own history — hopping the fence.

“If anyone has any right to be curious and to want to see this place first hand, it’s the people living immediately around it,” explains Richter. “For a lot of young Ukrainians it becomes almost like a rite of passage. There’s a huge draw [for them] to engage with this place and, for many, it’s easier to sneak in than to pay for a tour.”

Stalkers walking around the Ukrainian Exclusion Zone

When Richter, a British writer and photographer, decided to take an illegal tour of Chernobyl, it was not to seek an adrenaline rush or to be rebellious — he wanted to get a better picture of the place.

“[The Ukrainian Exclusion Zone] is a huge area. It is around 1,000 square miles and there used to be almost 100 villages within it, but after looking at maps while designing tours, I realized that the area where the tour buses go is tiny, so I got curious.”

Small cabins in the woods in the Chernobyl exclusion zone

Richter was able to find someone to take him on an illegal visit to the Exclusion Zone through a friend of a friend, but even without that connection, it would have been easy enough for him to find a stalker to guide him. There are public blogs with accounts and photographs of unofficial visits online for everyone to see, and many of those bloggers are open to chat about what they do. The person with whom Richter went has a website on which they sell illegal tours.

Surprisingly, those very public stalkers are confident Ukrainian authorities do not check their online goings-on. “They’re trying to catch people in the act rather than stop them before they transgress. It’s a very outdated model, though with the increased attention on Chernobyl today, it now seems to be changing — the Ukrainian government is currently discussing new legislation, which would change trespass in the Zone from a civil, to a criminal offence.”

Currently, the consequences of being caught without authorization in the Ukrainian evacuated zone are milder than one might imagine. If authorities catch visitors on foot, wandering around with a camera, exploring for the sake of sight-seeing, the fine is akin to a slap on the wrist — $25 and a drive back to the checkpoint is hardly a deterrent. (Richter mentions that for those who roam the area in order to loot metal, poach animals, or cross the unmanned Ukrainian-Belarus border, it’s another story — the punishments are much more severe.) However if this new legislation passes, the fines will go up by a hundred times, and those caught will receive a permanent criminal record — which for Ukraine’s stalker community, is liable to feel like the end of an era.

And contrary to what most of us think, the evacuated zones, whether in Ukraine or Belarus, are not heavily guarded. The tourist entrance is highly secure, with a fence and checkpoints where armed guards check visitors’ passports and tickets, but there are many places where there are no barriers and entering undetected is easy.

During his one and only illegal visit to Chernobyl, Richter penetrated the Exclusion Zone by wading through the Uzh River which forms a natural border with the rest of Ukraine. And while it was easy enough to enter, once inside, it was no picnic. For four exhausting days, Richter and other stalkers slept roughly in small disused houses during the day and hiked throughout the nights; they constantly hid from people and checked for radiation levels; they worried about getting caught; they were scared of falling through the floors of the abandoned buildings they explored, and getting attacked by the wolves who live in the zone today.

“I would not do it again,” says Richter, “and I certainly don’t want to encourage people to travel to another country and break the law. They are many things that could go wrong during an illegal tour.”

Stained glass and dog in abandoned building in Chernobyl

Not all licensed tours resemble the one Richter first took and despite what the title of his book might suggest, he does not believe that an illegal tour of the Exclusion Zone is the only or best way to see Chernobyl in an interesting, novel light. As a tour organizer, he thrives to take visitors further afield and find unusual lodgings, canteens, and places to see such as log cabins, beautiful abandoned Orthodox churches, murals, inhabited villages, WWII memorials, etc. He wants to show visitors that Chernobyl should not be restricted to the morbid appeal of the former control room or Pripyat’s rusty ferris wheel — he wants to make sure everyone knows that it was an interesting and beautiful place way before 1986 and that it continues to be so.

Art in Chernobyl

“Did you know that tourists only account for five percent of the total human traffic into the zone?” Richter asks during our conversation. “You have thousands of people working at the power plant, and many more working in forestry, conservation, construction, etc. and many of them come in by train into the zone. The place is a hive of activity.” Then he mentions that there are helicopters, small planes, and kayaking tours of the Exclusion Zone before explaining that Chernobyl was home to a large traditional Hasidic Jewish community before the horrors of the Shoah.

chernobyl illegal tour

More like this

Trending now, 8 countries where the new year won’t be 2024, in finland on new year’s eve, tiny horseshoes are melted to predict the future, houston is home to one of the biggest lunar new year parties in the us. here’s how to celebrate, i went to an edm festival on a cruise ship. here's what it's like., a beginner's guide to japanese onsen and the art of bathing, discover matador, adventure travel, train travel, national parks, beaches and islands, ski and snow.

This story is over 5 years old.

The guide smuggling tourists into chernobyl.

All photos by Kiril Stepanets

Kiril Stepanets

ORIGINAL REPORTING ON EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS IN YOUR INBOX.

By signing up, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy & to receive electronic communications from Vice Media Group, which may include marketing promotions, advertisements and sponsored content.

Chernobyl's Dead Zone: See Photos Taken on Illegal Visits

Decades after the worst nuclear disaster in history, a group of self-proclaimed “stalkers” makes illegal trips into the abandoned radioactive city..

chernobyl illegal tour

An estimated 200 tons of radioactive material festers beneath a steel containment structure inside Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear catastrophe in history. Weightless, odorless, and invisible to the human eye, it has leached into the ground and swept across the anguished landscape.

Today, the 18-mile radius around the most contaminated area—the exclusion zone—is a mausoleum of man’s technological folly. Its ruination has become a symbol of the failed utopian ideals of the Soviet Union, a warning of humanity’s capacity to wreak ecological havoc, and a reminder of both our fragility and resilience.

Thirty-one years after being designated a dead zone, the living roam its corridors once again. Over the past decade, an increasing number of self-proclaimed “stalkers” regularly enter the zone illegally. Cloaked in darkness and camouflage, they navigate miles of irradiated forest, sleep in abandoned villages, and watch the sunrise unfurl over the town of Pripyat's crumbling Brezhnev baroque rooftops.

Knyazev (nicknamed JimmSide), rests in an abandoned pig shed on the journey to Pripyat. "I'm attracted ...

“You feel like the last person on Earth,” says Eugene Knyazev , who estimates that over the course of 50 trips, he has spent a year of his life in the exclusion zone. “You wander through empty villages, cities, roads. This is a magical sensation.”

THE POST-NUCLEAR TRAVELER

The term stalker originated in Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s 1971 science fiction novel, Roadside Picnic , in which alien invaders have left dangerous artifacts in areas known as Zones. The stalkers infiltrate these highly-regulated Zones to steal and sell the objects on the black market. The story was later adapted into Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, Stalker .

Published 15 years before the Chernobyl disaster, the Strugatskys’ book proved prophetic.

On April 26, 1986, a series of mistakes at the Chernobyl power plant compounded into the worst nuclear disaster in history (only Fukushima shares its maximum level-7 rating). An explosion at reactor number four released a cloud of radioactive dust that poisoned millions of acres across Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and forced the evacuation of nearly a hundred thousand people. In addition to the human toll, the political and economic consequences were profound and enduring.

chernobyl illegal tour

Inspired by memories of Chernobyl—real and imagined—a new subculture emerged. Organized groups with names, symbols, and rituals began to enter the area illegally.

“[Stalkers] see their hobby as an escape from an overly-regulated world: an escape into another reality in which fragments of social collapse can be grasped and contemplated. A lot of these places, the Zone included, are fenced off by a perimeter, and there are political implications in transgressing it, beyond the sheer thrill of the forbidden,” says Stuart Lindsay , a Chernobyl researcher at the University of Stirling.

Stalkers see themselves as both students of history and documentarians—preventing the memory of Chernobyl from falling into oblivion while breaking free from the eternal haste of the city.

“You go to one of the largest museums of Soviet life—you literally can touch history,” says Alexander Sherekh, a physicist who has made the trip 11 times. “You escape the 40-hour work week, life in a concrete box, and enter a completely different world. Instead of society’s problems and the ubiquity of smartphones and social networks, it’s an opportunity to be alone with yourself.”

CYBERSPACE VS. REALITY

The Ukrainian video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R., a first-person video game set in the exclusion zone, was released in 2007 and has been highly influential in the movement.

“We never encouraged the players to visit illegally—you need to differentiate between virtual world of the game and the real one,” says Oleg Yavorsky, one of the game’s creators. “Obviously the desire to see with their own eyes has been pretty strong.”

Critics of both the video game and stalker movement argue that it’s youthful self-indulgence—the reduction of real tragedy into post-apocalyptic sci-fi entertainment. The reality may be more nuanced.

“A lot of the original survivors felt like they were viewed as circus animals or freaks by outsiders—predominantly by Western media,” Lindsay says. “The second generation of survivors—who are more numerous and widely-settled than the initial liquidators—are now going through their own health issues related to Chernobyl. In my understanding, the older people are content to let the younger ones approach the Zone using the tools of their time.”

Most stalkers agree that they have a meaningful connection to the place and what some consider exploitation they see as homage.

“S.T.A.L.K.E.R. [was intended] to warn mankind of dangers when playing with unknown forces of nature,” Yavorsky says. “At the same time the game was meant to generate interest of the young audience in history. We hope the lesson of the Chernobyl accident will be remembered, so as the deed of the people who paid their lives to save us all from the nuclear aftermath.”

"NO DOSIMETER, NO RADIATION"

Three decades after the city was hastily abandoned, lush vegetation has overtaken the ruins and wildlife roams freely. Although low levels of background radiation make it relatively safe for tourists to visit sanctioned routes, the stalkers are notorious for their lax safety standards—ingesting unfiltered water, eating berries, and handling contaminated objects.

In fact, “no dosimeter, no radiation” is a stalker proverb. Scientists like Vadim Chumak, Head of the Department of Dosimetry and Radiation Hygiene at the National Research Center for Radiation Medicine, challenge this notion. "The stalkers belong to the same category of humans as base jumpers and shark swimmers—this type of character is adrenaline addicted and is attracted by any sort of risk and danger,” he says. "Since radiation has no smell or taste, evolutionally we do not have built-in biological sensors for detection. As a result, the feeling of risk associated with ionizing radiation is naturally biased. If base jumper smashes against the land, it is quite definite. If cancer develops 15 years after exposure, it is less obvious," he says. Even if radiation is reasonably low, unstable structures, hidden pits, rivers and lakes, and wild animals can pose an even larger threat, Chumak says.

Despite a disregard for their own health, the stalkers acknowledge the threat of contamination within their community. “The most absurd thing in the zone is a man and his thirst for profit,” Knyazev says. “People take out the forest for sale, the contaminated metal from the cemeteries of radioactive technology and sell them as raw materials. It threatens with new cancers for those who will have contact with these materials. After all, from the forest you can make cribs, and with iron, toys.”

As of 2017, there are 448 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide and nearly 60 more under construction.

Pierpaolo Mittica is a contributing photographer to Parallelozero and is based in Venice, Italy. Follow him on Instagram @pierpaolomittica .

  • Nuclear Energy
  • Photography
  • Travel photography
  • Environment and Conservation
  • Kiev Oblast
  • Physical Sciences
  • Travel and Adventure

Russian Urban Exploration

An illegal tour of Chernobyl

It all started with a search for a guide – a true Chernobyl stalker.

As it turned out, finding one is not so easy, since nobody wants to deal with strange people, especially if they are coming from another city. So first of all I had to register and take part in conversations on forums dedicated to Chernobyl stalking in order to gain trust in the community.

A month later I finally managed to find someone who volunteered to show us around the Zone.

An-illegal-tour-of-Chernobyl

At one point, we had to ford a river. Luckily, the water was warm, but mosquitoes and gnats were driving us crazy.

driving us crazy

The first sunrise we saw in the Zone. A most striking impression is the complete absence of industrial noise, with only birds and mosquitoes chirping.

first sunrise we saw in the Zone

The second ford. This creek is smaller, but it was harder to get across because of the silt at the bottom. That was the first time we lost some of our belongings: a flashlight and a T-shirt.

The second ford

The first building we saw was a derelict church in a village.

church in a village

This was the place where we spent the night. On our way there, our shoes got soaked and we had to dry everything off.

We found a nice house with a heater and crashed there.

7868355

These were our facilities.

7868356

We had spent the night, dried everything up and started to pack when we heard a car engine nearby. We hid in the house, quickly packed our stuff, ran a couple hundred yards to a neighboring house and climbed up to the attic. We stayed there until the car headed back, also waiting out the rain. Then there was a long and extremely difficult march towards the city of Pripyat.

Why was it so difficult? To begin with, we walked during the night with barely any light. Despite the fact that we used automobile roads, these roads hadn’t been well maintained, and there were lots of stones and gravel. Thus, the conditions were very harsh for the feet, especially the soles.

It turned out that our shoes were still a bit wet from the previous day, and our feet were soon covered in sores. Walking on became harder and harder, and the stops had to be longer and more frequent. We were quickly running out of band aids.

7868360

When the day broke, it became a bit easier to move forward, probably because our minds were distracted with the surroundings.

Abandoned, half ruined villages, collapsed farms and other buildings were all around. It kept reminding us why we came there and what had happened.

7868369

Trees are growing right out of a building.

Trees

A road sign.

A road sign

Yet another stop, trying to patch up our feet.

Then we cooked some food and checked with the GPS data if the route we were following was correct. Meanwhile, we waited for the darkness to fall.

133971247

The last march was ahead, the last stretch of the way before arriving at the city. A very difficult stretch indeed.

Finally, we saw the first radiation contamination warning sign. It means that there are final storage facilities further in the woods and it’s strongly advised to keep away.

133971249

Starting from this point we regularly measured the radiation levels at every rest stop. The levels on the road were more or less normal (+/- 20), but if you stepped only about a meter (3 ft) aside, the device would show something like this:

133971255

Then we saw the first automated radiation monitoring system (ARMS).

automated radiation monitoring system

It makes a noise that can be heard from quite a distance. It pumps large amounts of air through itself, thus measuring radiation levels of a large area.

There were moose horns on its gate for some reason.

moose horns on its gate

And here it is! We arrived at our destination. The gates of Pripyat are in front of us.

gates of Pripyat

The checkpoint. There are no city guards.

The checkpoint

On the outskirts, in the woods, many items taken out of the city apartments are buried in the ground together with the trucks that were used to bring them there.

133971262

A former garage co-operative of the city dwellers.

garage co-operative

Here’s the first building we saw, right in the middle of the forest.

first building we saw

We were absolutely worn out, so we “checked in” at a stalker apartment to finally get some rest and sleep.

a stalker apartment

A photo taken from the roof of the building.

The buildings are surrounded by the forest. Many of the trees are more than 9 storeys tall.

133971272

We waited for it to get dark and headed into the city.

133971278 (1)

High school №3

High school №3

A rare object.

A rare object

A kindergarten: a very creepy and depressing place.

A kindergarten: a very creepy and depressing place

The city center. The stadium.

The city center The stadium

The amusement park that was never even put into operation. It was scheduled to open on May 1st, which wasn’t meant to happen.

The amusement park

By the way, it’s a highly contaminated spot, but the official tours still include it in their routes. The levels near the ground, right next to the rides.

highly contaminated spot

The central square.

The central square.

Soviet soda machines.

Soviet soda machines

The medical unit where the first liquidators of the disaster were brought. The highest radiation levels can be found down in the basement where the liquidator’s clothes and gear were thrown.

The entrance to the basement had been blocked, which is a good thing.

We found a fire hood that used to belong to one of those first liquidators. It had been brought here from the basement by some idiot. The contamination level is striking.

df45

After that, we returned to the apartment, spent the night there and realized we didn’t have any strength left and getting back on foot wasn’t even an option.

So we decided to head to the radiation monitoring station to give ourselves in, which we did. Just like that, blatantly and at once.

And what do you think happened then? We walked to the station without anyone stopping us.

We passed through the personnel radiation exposure control point at the entrance.

133971320

Then we passed by the staff changing rooms and through the exit exposure control point to the internal use railway station where we were planning to get on a train towards the city of Chernobyl. Only there were we “arrested”.

133971317

A bit later, a colonel (himself!) arrived and took us to Chernobyl in his car. There, in a local police station, all the reports were written, our bags were searched and we were taken to the police living quarters for the night, where we had a great time with the policemen in the event hall.

133971323

So, this is what our trip was like.

By TIMIKUS for Rusue.com

Similar Posts

An illegal visit to Chernobyl

An illegal visit to Chernobyl

Abandoned shelter of the closed confectionery factory “Sputnik”

Abandoned shelter of the closed confectionery factory “Sputnik”

Dalniye Zelentsy: a forgotten town

Dalniye Zelentsy: a forgotten town

An abandoned high security prison

An abandoned high security prison

A derelict library

A derelict library

Akarmara: Caucasian Ghost Town

Akarmara: Caucasian Ghost Town

One comment.

I want to do the same as you did. But I can’t find a stalker. How did you find a stalker?

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Sean O’Grady
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Food & Drink
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos
  • Wine Offers

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

Chernobyl: Is it safe to visit the nuclear disaster site?

The nuclear disaster unfolded 35 years ago, article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

Chernobyl has been open to tourists since 2010, though visitor numbers remain low

Sign up to Simon Calder’s free travel email for expert advice and money-saving discounts

Get simon calder’s travel email, thanks for signing up to the simon calder’s travel email.

Thirty-five years ago, the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place in a Ukrainian town near the Belarus border.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened overnight on 25-26 April 1986 in the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, when an explosion sent radioactive material into the air.

The disaster was covered in detail in 2019’s Sky Atlantic/HBO drama Chernobyl .

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting the former nuclear site.

What is the Chernobyl disaster and what happened?

The disaster occurred during a routine late-night safety test in the number four nuclear reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in the town of Pripyat, which is 104k from the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

The plant crew intentionally switched off the safety systems to test the turbine.

Illegal tour of Chernobyl visits forgotten sites

However, the reactor overheated and generated a powerful explosion that sent plumes of radioactive material two kilometres into the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s estimated that 400 times more radioactive material was sent into the air than when the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Following the explosion, 134 servicemen were hospitalised with acute radiation sickness, of which 28 firemen and employees died in the weeks and months after the explosion.

An 18-mile radius, known as the exclusion zone, was set up around the reactor; and more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the area.

Is Chernobyl open to tourists?

Yes. The site has been open to the public since 2011, when authorities deemed it safe to visit. While there are Covid-related restrictions in Ukraine, the Chernobyl site is open as a “cultural venue”, subject to extra safety measures.

Is it safe to visit?

Recommended.

  • Inside Chernobyl, 32 years on

Yes, provided you visit with a specialist tour guide.

“Several thousand people visit every year,” says Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel . “The amount of radiation you’re exposed to is similar to on a long haul flight.

“The main danger is not radiation, but unsafe structures which have been deserted for 30 years, and lots of metal has been stripped away. So go around in groups, and obey the guide’s instructions.”

Peter Wybrow, Ukraine expert at Regent Holidays, which organises trips to Ukraine and Chernobyl, says guides will always carry a Geiger counter with them to measure radiation.

However, it is dangerous to stay near the site for longer periods.

Should tourists visit Chernobyl?

It’s a fascinating experience on many levels and well worth a visit, says Francis.

“It’s bleak but also illuminating, poignant, fascinating to learn the real stories. It’s a photographer’s dream.

“You can also meet the settlers who returned to hear their stories and help them out by buying their moonshine. Don’t see it as disaster tourism but as a way of understanding the risks of nuclear.”

If I want to visit, how can I do it?

Chernobyl is around 100k north of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, or a two-hour drive. It’s an easy day trip for tourists already in Kiev.

“Most tours are day trips but you can stay overnight in a small hotel in Chernobyl town too, which is perfectly safe and best way to really experience it rather than just a few hours on a day trip,” says Francis.

“Kiev shouldn’t be missed and it’s a good idea to combine with a visit to the Kiev Chernobyl Museum giving you the background, especially some interesting films shot during the time of the evacuation.”

What can visitors expect when they visit?

Because the exclusion zone has meant almost no human interference for more than 30 years, wildlife surrounding Chernobyl has thrived: visitors can spot species such as tame foxes and giant catfish, as well as wild horses, bison, bears and wolves – although these are rarely seen.

Francis adds: “There are also many interesting buildings around, although lots of them have been damaged by looters or disrespectful tourists.

“It’s a good idea to climb to top of a residential building, about 15 storeys high, to take in the views. Also the fairground, the Ferris wheel is one of the iconic Chernobyl images. It was scheduled to open a few days after the explosion so the wheel and the dodgems never had paying riders.”

What should tourists be aware of?

Some places are still off-limits to tourists because of radiation fears, such as the basement of the hospital where the first responders’ equipment and clothing was dumped, says Wybrow.

Although on a two-day tour to Chernobyl, visitors will be exposed to a lower level of radiation than on a long-haul flight, there are safety checks in place.

Wybrow adds: “When you go through the outer and inner exclusion zone you are subject to radiation checks to ensure no one is above a safe level. There is also a curfew in Chernobyl if you overnight there.”

The Independent journalist Emma Thomson visited Chernobyl first-hand. Read about her experience here .

What are the rules for travelling to Ukraine?

British travellers are required to provide proof of health insurance that covers Covid for the duration of their stay. Insurance must be purchased from a company registered in Ukraine or a foreign company that has a representative office or an insurance partner in Ukraine.

Travellers must also present: a document confirming receipt of at least one dose of a WHO-approved Covid vaccination; a negative Rapid Antigen Test taken no more than 72 hours before entry, or; a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before entry.

The requirement for proof of vaccination or a negative test does not apply to children under 12.

Is Ukraine on the UK’s travel green list?

No, but it is on the amber list. This means returning travellers who have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the same vaccine in the UK, EU or US, plus accompanying under 18s, don’t need to quarantine on return to the UK. They must instead pre-book and take a PCR test within two days of arriving back in the UK.

Unvaccinated adults must self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival into the UK and take a second PCR on day eight. Arrivals in England have the option to pay for an extra test on day five for an early release.

All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative Covid test prior to departure for the UK.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre

Trending Today

You Can Now Visit Chernobyl’s Control Room, if You’re Quick About It

Visitors will have five minutes to look around the contaminated spot where the worst nuclear disaster in history took place

Jason Daley

Correspondent

nuclear reactor

The control room of reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant—one of most ominous places on Earth—has become tourist attraction.

As we reported over the summer , tourism at Chernobyl is booming. And now, as Jack Guy at CNN reports, companies have begun allowing people to briefly visit the highly radioactive control room where the worst nuclear disaster in history unfolded. But they must take precautions: Visitors have to wear protective suits, helmets and masks and are limited to five minutes inside the space. Afterward, they will undergo two mandatory radiology tests to gauge their exposure.

The tour option is part of big changes at the site of the disaster. This July, Ukrainian authorities took charge of the New Safe Confinement dome, which now covers the contaminated reactor building. The massive $1.6 billion structure took 22 years of planning and construction and is expected to safeguard the damaged reactor for 100 years , when experts suggest it may be safe enough to demolish.

The dome is the reason that the area is safe enough to allow more tourism to Chernobyl. Soon after accepting the symbolic keys to the dome, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine signed a decree designating the site a tourist attraction. “We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life,” Zelensky announced. “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it.”

To that end, Ukraine has begun developing new tourist routes and waterways in the area, and will be building and upgrading radiation checkpoints in the area.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been open to tourists since 2011, according to David Grossman at Popular Mechanics . Earlier this year, researchers found that the 1,000 square mile zone, where humans are not allowed to live, has become a de facto wildlife refuge .

The hit HBO’s miniseries “Chernobyl,” released in May of this year, has led to a tourism boom in the area, with a 30 to 40 percent increase in visitors. “Many people come here, they ask a lot of questions about the TV show, about all the events. People are getting more and more curious,” tour guide Viktoria Brozhko told Max Hunder for Reuters .

Most day-tripping tours visit several abandoned villages, memorials to those who combated the disaster and the now-abandoned city of Pripyat. In total, Brozhko estimates most visitors receive 2 microsieverts of radiation exposure, about the same they’d receive while sitting at home for a day.

Radiation in the control room, however, could be 40,000 times normal levels. While the room remains pretty much as it was in 1986, Brozhko has observed that many plastic control knobs have been removed, likely by decontamination workers and rogue tourists looking for a souvenir.

Chernobyl may now be a tourist attraction, but for many, the spot of the disaster remains an open wound. Because the Soviet Union was unwilling to share data on the nuclear incident, its true toll may never be known. The Soviets claimed 31 people died when the reactor exploded and in the immediate aftermath of the disaster in 1986. As David Brennan at Newsweek reports, in 2008 the U.N. revised that number up to 54. The long-term effects remain hard to quantify. While a multi-agency group called the Chernobyl Forum estimates 4,000 to 9,000 people have or will eventually die from cancer related to Chernobyl exposure, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that number is closer to 27,000, and an analysis by Greenpeace suggests the number is closer to 93,000.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.

Jason Daley | | READ MORE

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover , Popular Science , Outside , Men’s Journal , and other magazines.

  • Entertainment

How the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. inspired a wave of real-world Chernobyl tourists

A virtual world leads to irl excursions.

By Darmon Richter

Illustration by Alex Castro

Share this story

chernobyl illegal tour

At the entrance to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Ukraine, 35 years on from the worst nuclear disaster in history, a yellow souvenir van sells T-shirts, key rings, and glow-in-the-dark “Chernobyl condoms,” all branded with gas mask symbols or stylized radiation warning signs.

They sell hot dogs and coffee. There’s “Chernobyl ice cream,” advertised by colorful signs reminiscent of the Raygun Gothic style of atomic-era Americana. As I join the other tourists and queue for a coffee, speakers play “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” by The Ink Spots, a track lifted straight from the soundtrack of Fallout 3 . By the time I finish my drink I’m listening to Doris Day croon: “Again… this couldn’t happen again / This is that once in a lifetime / This is the thrill divine.”

In May 2019, HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl became an unprecedented hit. The real Chernobyl Zone saw a record number of 124,000 visitors that year, and many commentators suggested the HBO show had caused a sudden Chernobyl tourism boom. In reality, though, queues at the Chernobyl checkpoint had been growing at a consistent rate for a decade prior — and the touristification of Chernobyl owed at least as much to video games as it did to television.

In 2007, two games were released that imprinted Chernobyl into the minds of a whole generation of gamers. In the West, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a blockbuster. It featured a stealth mission titled “All Ghillied Up,” which was set in Pripyat, the abandoned workers’ city that stands alongside the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The mission opens with panoramic shots of Pripyat’s deserted housing blocks, while a voiceover intones: “50,000 people used to live here. Now it’s a ghost town.” This Chernobyl setting lent Call of Duty a new dimension of danger and intrigue; it created a strong visual impression, although, really, the gameplay that followed could have been located practically anywhere.

The same cannot be said for S.T.A.L.K.E.R . 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

Ukrainian studio GSC Game World released S.T.A.L.K.E.R .: Shadow of Chernobyl the same year Call of Duty 4 came out, but while both featured first-person shooter gameplay set in Chernobyl, in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. ’s case it was more than just stage dressing. S.T.A.L.K.E.R . introduced players to a world in which the landscape — the mysterious “Zone” — became a character in its own right. This was partly the result of an innovative global AI system that created the sense of a living, breathing world: non-player characters would interact, fight, strum guitars, or fend off packs of rabid dogs, with or without the player being present. Immersion was heightened by the lack of a fast travel option, forcing players to spend an awful lot of time looking at the ever-changing scenery. But the personification of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. ’s terrain ran deeper still, as it was rooted in the game’s mythos, which tapped into older ideas from Soviet-era science fiction. 

Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker was a dreamlike meditation on desire and ruination, in which an almost shamanic figure, known as “Stalker,” leads two tourists through the post-industrial landscapes of a mysterious, sentient Zone to find the Room at its center where a visitor’s wishes could be granted. However, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. shares more DNA with Roadside Picnic , the 1972 novel by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, which inspired Tarkovsky’s film. The protagonist of Roadside Picnic is just one of many stalkers. In the wake of some unexplained extraterrestrial event, areas of the Earth’s surface have been contaminated by alien energies. These areas are evacuated to form military-guarded “Zones,” and the “stalkers” are the scavengers who venture illegally inside to hunt for valuable alien artifacts left scattered across this strange and toxic landscape.

“Chernobyl gave us that rich atmosphere, and huge lore possibilities.” 

To adapt this world for the medium of games, GSC Game World gave their stalkers assault rifles, created rival factions, and populated the wasteland with corrupted wildlife: mutated dogs, boars, and worse. The Zone of the game borrows the novel’s alien “anomalies” — invisible traps that shoot jets of flame or catapult unwary travelers into the sky — and at the center, as in both the book and the film, lies the mysterious promise of a “Wish Granter.” But the developers also made the bold decision of placing this literary Zone inside Ukraine’s own real-life Exclusion Zone: the 1,000-square mile region of evacuated farms and villages that surrounds the Chernobyl Plant.

I asked GSC Game World’s PR manager, Zakhar Bocharov, how that decision came about. “Several locations were considered for the game,” he explains, “but Chernobyl just clicked at a certain point as the perfect setting for this story. It was the decision of Sergiy Grygorovych, the game’s director, and then everything came together around that idea. Chernobyl gave us that rich atmosphere, and huge lore possibilities.” 

Long before the game, the fictional works of Tarkovsky and the Strugatskys had sometimes been described as seeming almost prophetic of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and the real-life Zone that was established in its wake. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. was born into a narrative space already carved out by urban myths and conspiracy theories. “Our core team is Ukrainian, so everything that happened at Chernobyl was very familiar and personal for us,” says Bocharov. “The idea of telling a story in this space came organically — just with certain tweaks, like an altered history and sci-fi elements.”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was a phenomenal success: it earned critical acclaim around the world and sold a reported 2 million copies in its first year. A prequel ( Clear Sky ) and sequel ( Call of Pripyat ) soon followed. These games built a cult following, particularly in Eastern Europe. They inspired live-action roleplay events, themed airsoft tournaments, and festivals such as the 2009 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Fest in Kyiv. It was only a matter of time before the game’s influence reached Chernobyl itself.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

In 2019, I interviewed Yaroslav Yemelianenko, the co-founder of Chernobyl Tour, one of the dozen or so companies that offer trips inside the Chernobyl Zone. He told me how his own interest in Chernobyl started with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.… and then, realizing that the “real Zone” could be visited just nearby, he joined a tour to Pripyat. By 2008, he had established his own company, and one of their early offerings was a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. -themed tour visiting locations from the game. The souvenir van at the entrance to the Zone belongs to Chernobyl Tour, too. Whereas the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was once exclusively controlled by Soviet-style bureaucrats, there is a sense now that a new generation is taking over — and increasingly, they offer a Chernobyl experience that delivers on expectations set by pop culture references. 

However, not all S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fans are looking for that group tour experience. Stepan (who, for privacy, prefers not to use his full name) is one of a growing number of young Ukrainians who visit the Chernobyl Zone illegally. Many call themselves “stalkers.” On his trips, Stepan carries food and water, a first-aid kit, and a cheap radiation meter he purchased online. He says it takes him three days to hike from the Zone’s perimeter fence to Pripyat, a journey that mirrors the player’s progress through the game world of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.. Just like Yemelianenko, Stepan’s interest in the real Zone started with the game.

“It felt more real than other games I had played.”

“When S.T.A.L.K.E.R. came out, it was something really new and exciting for me. Not just because it was set in my country… but also because it felt more real than other games I had played. I wasn’t some magical hero, or ‘chosen one,’ you know? Just some random guy, taking on a big hostile world. I could relate to that.” Stepan adds, however, that he abandoned the game after becoming a real stalker. “Playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. made me curious to see these places in real life. But now that I know the real Zone, I can’t imagine going back to the game’s version.”

Chernobyl Tour believes that with the right marketing and itineraries, it can tempt S.T.A.L.K.E.R. fans to join its groups instead. Its chief deputy Kateryna Aslamova explains: “In many cases, people enter illegally to visit places they can’t see on regular tours. Occasionally, I have ex-stalkers on my tours ... now, with all the choice we offer, they realize there’s no longer a reason to go illegally.” 

But Stepan is not convinced. “Firstly, the legal entry fees are a little more difficult when you’re earning Ukrainian wages,” he says. “But mainstream tourism will never capture the feeling of exploring the wild Zone. When I go there, I want to hear the forest … to be alone with my thoughts in a place beyond the noise and rules of normal life. To be completely responsible for my own fate. This is a really unique and special experience … you would never get this on a legal tour, surrounded by people, buses, guides, and souvenir shops.”

Other guides take a more agnostic approach toward the activities of illegal tourists, believing there’s space for stalkers and tour companies to coexist in the Zone. Yevhen Chkalov was a junior game designer on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. , whose responsibilities included developing and scripting some of the game’s side missions. Nowadays he leads tours in the real Chernobyl Zone and runs the online fan community Bar Apocalypse, which caters to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and two of its offspring, the Metro and Survarium franchises.

“Stalking and tourism are two sides of the same coin,” Chkalov tells me. “Some visitors want the extreme experience and full atmosphere … others just want to see the Zone without all the hard work. I used to be a stalker myself, just like many other legal guides were. I have a good relationship with the stalkers now. They recommend my services to those who can’t manage the long hike. And I send them the people who don’t feel satisfied by what’s offered on the legal experience.”

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

There were stalkers in the Zone before 2007, but S.T.A.L.K.E.R. gave them a shared identity — the basis of a subculture — and Chkalov says the majority of stalkers today were inspired by the games. Though some are in for a surprise: “They play some games and decide they want to try this experience in real life … but then they find out that hiking for days and days is a little harder than just pressing the ‘W’ button. It’s serious physical activity. That’s why so many stalkers surrender themselves to the police.” At present, the penalty for being caught in the Zone illegally is the equivalent of a $20 fine, after which the authorities typically drive the trespassers back to the police station in Ivankiv, a town outside the perimeter fence. “In the Zone, we call this ‘the taxi to Ivankiv,’” Chkalov jokes.

In 2018, I decided to join one of these stalker trips. A Ukrainian guide led us chest-deep through a river to enter the Zone, then for four days we hiked through wild, wooded landscapes between run-down villages and the shells of former farms and factories. The parallels to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. were occasionally quite surreal. Inventory management was a serious issue, our backpacks stuffed with first-aid kits, bread and salamis, just like in the game. We couldn’t carry all the water we’d need, but our stalker guide had his friends hide supply stashes ahead of us, for which they shared a list of coordinates. It became a kind of orienteering mission, always hiking toward the next stash pinned on our electronic maps. When we finally reached Pripyat on the fourth night; the experience of stepping out of forest and into a whole deserted city was just as exhilarating and cathartic a reward as it was to reach the virtual Pripyat after hours of wandering through S.T.A.L.K.E.R. ’s version of this Zone. 

Concept art for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2.

It is easy to see why so many former gamers have joined the ranks of the real-life stalkers since 2007: this feels like the ultimate live-action roleplay experience, a true physical immersion into the game’s world, complete with many of the dangers that entails. Zakhar Bocharov tells me that while GSC Game World appreciates S.T.A.L.K.E.R. ’s passionate fan base, the developers themselves do not endorse illegal tourism in the real Zone. He stresses the many dangers and says the company would always recommend visitors to join a legal tour instead. Though he also acknowledges, “our words would hardly change anything.”

With S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 scheduled to release in 2021, the developers have lately been spending more time in Chernobyl themselves. “The Zone is changing constantly,” says Bocharov. “Our core team visits every couple of months, or even more often. Sometimes it’s for photogrammetry work, and sometimes just for inspiration. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 will include new locations along with the old ones — in a seamless open world for the first time in the series.”

“The Zone is changing constantly.”

When S.T.A.L.K.E.R. came out in 2007, Ukraine didn’t even recognize Chernobyl as a tourism destination. Security was far less stringent than it is today, and the Zone was a playground for looters and poachers, stalkers and bandits — “a symbol of corruption,” according to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy . But the real and virtual Zones are gradually diverging and in 2019, Zelenskyy signed a decree for the development of the territory, promising to create “a green corridor for tourists,” while stamping out corruption. “We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life,” he stated, during a visit to the Zone. “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand. It’s time to change it.”

From the state’s perspective, the stalkers are very much a part of that old image. In September 2020, the Verkhovna Rada — Ukraine’s parliament — was presented a proposal for amendments to the law concerning trespassing in the Chernobyl Zone . If passed, this bill would upgrade stalking from an administrative offense to a criminal offense under Ukrainian law. The current $20 fee for a “taxi to Ivankiv” would increase by a factor of a hundred and be backed by the threat of jail time. 

Sitting at the Chernobyl checkpoint with my coffee, I watch five minibuses and two coaches roll past into the Zone. The recent upgrade from analog printed checklists to a digital barcoded ticketing system has dramatically increased the rate at which visitors can be admitted. As video game soundtracks play in the background, one group stops to shop for souvenirs; they’re Polish tourists, and four of them are wearing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. T-shirts. This regulated, streamlined new version of Chernobyl tourism is better for business, it’s better for Ukraine, and it means that by the time S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 arrives, any would-be trespassers are going to find it harder than ever to access the Zone. Nevertheless, Yevhen Chkalov predicts that the stalkers won’t be giving up anytime soon. 

“There was an illegal tourism boom directly after the success of the first game,” he points out. “When S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 releases, you can expect another wave.”

Apple’s Vision Pro battery pack is hiding the final boss of Lightning cables

Apple vision pro review: magic, until it’s not, car-tech breakup fever is heating up, snap is recalling and refunding every drone it ever sold, trolls have flooded x with graphic taylor swift ai fakes.

Sponsor logo

More from Entertainment

An illustration of the PlaySation “PS” logo overlayed on swooping blue and teal colors

All the news from PlayStation’s 2024 State of Play

A screenshot of the video game Palworld.

Palworld isn’t slowing down, hits 19 million players across Steam and Xbox

A brain with wires over a field of music notes

TikTok is set to lose some major musical artists over AI and pay dispute

Sony’s PS5 console.

How to watch today’s PlayStation State of Play showcase

Chernobyl: Over 35 Years On, Is It Actually Safe To Visit?

You've seen the pictures and watched the docuseries on HBO: But is the site of Chernobyl truly risk-free three decades after the reactor explosion?

Read update

There Are Still Many Mysteries Surrounding The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

  • Chernobyl will be habitable again in about 20,000 years due to the long-lasting effects of ground absorption of radiation.
  • Visiting Chernobyl is now considered safe, but there are still risks associated with touring due to the structural instability of the ruins.
  • The closest town to Chernobyl is Pripyat, which still has lower levels of nuclear radiation compared to Chernobyl but is still affected. Certain areas are designated as safe for tours, while others have higher radiation levels to avoid. Visitors are subject to radiation checks.

About 35 years ago, during the tail end of the Cold War, the world was rocked by The Chernobyl Disaster in 1986. This catastrophic nuclear accident changed people's perception of nuclear power forever and even helped crack the image of the powerful Soviet Union. Even though the power plant was still under construction with the first four operational, it already had a record of accidents. But while it had already had mild nuclear meltdowns, no one was prepared for its reactor #4 exploding. Mass evacuations followed, and a massive exclusion zone was created.

The neighboring city is called Pripyat and has been a ghost city for over 35 years now. But the question is, when will Chernobyl be habitable again, and for how long will Chernobyl be radioactive? It may surprise many people, but Chernobyl is considered safe to visit for short periods today.

The most common question about Chernobyl is this: More than three decades later, is the area safe to visit ? The answer is a little more complicated than a simple "yes."

UPDATE: 2023/06/28 14:41 EST BY NOAH STAATS

This article has been updated with new information regarding the Chernobyl site, as well as the nearby town of Pripyat. Whether someone is fascinated by this doomed nuclear power plant or simply wants to find out more about when it will be able to welcome residents: Ukraine has certainly been through trying times surrounding this area.

How Long Will It Take For Ground Radiation To Break Down At Chernobyl?

On average, the response to when Chernobyl and, by extension, Pripyat will be habitable again is about 20,000 years. That sounds like an extraordinary number until it's broken down scientifically: the radioactivity that penetrated the ground - and everywhere within a 1,000-mile radius - operates differently than other types of nuclear radiation .

  • When Will Chernobyl Be Habitable: Around 20,000 Years

The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was designed to detonate on impact and release all the contained energy in one shot, shortly dispersing afterward. Chernobyl, on the other hand, fell under the unfortunate instance of ground absorption.

  • Ground Absorption: The Radiation Leeched and Was Absorbed Into the Ground

When pieces of the reactor scattered and hit the ground, radiation continued to leech into the surrounding area, along with all of the scattered particles that made it into the air. The rain was responsible for pushing even more radiation down into the ground, making it nearly impossible to avoid it without evacuating immediately.

This medieval town in Spain was abandoned by accident decades ago.

Related: 10 Unsettling Things From Chernobyl That Still Have Not Recovered (10 That Have Changed)

When Will Chernobyl Be Safe?

With that being said, the most dangerous place to be in Chernobyl is anywhere near the reactor - that area will take at least 20,000 years to disperse as far as radiation breakdown. Many will ask, "Then how is it safe for tours to happen at Pripyat?"

  • Safe: Chernobyl Was Deemed Safe For Visiting in 2011

The site of the disaster was deemed safe back in 2011, which, in reality, is still only within the last decade. Touring the area does not come without risks, though.

Surprisingly, while humans were unable to inhabit the land (although there are some who have since moved back to the outskirts), the wildlife around the exposed area has simply exploded. Nature has reclaimed what was once Chernobyl and given way to an increase in wild animals, which could potentially be seen on tours, but it's not likely.

  • Wildlife: Wildlife Has Made A Big Comeback Here

The biggest risk associated with visiting Chernobyl is said to be the ruins that have been left behind - not due to radiation, but due to their structural instability.

In short, the good news is it is now possible to place a safe and exciting trip to Chernobyl , and there are several tour options that make it easy.

These ten abandoned subway stations are also creepy for visitors.

Related: The Somewhat Unnerving And Fascinating History of Chernobyl

What Is The Closest Town To Chernobyl?

For people in the area wanting to stay or tour a less-dangerous location, the small town of Pripyat is worth checking out. Created in 1970 as an adjacent town to serve the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the city of Pripyat was never meant to be much of a dazzler. However, now, people from across the globe travel here, often finding it safer and with less radiation than the city of Chernobyl. As of recent calculations, the city of Pripyat currently hosts 1,000 or fewer residents, as it is still considered affected by nuclear radiation.

  • The closest town to Chernobyl is named Pripyat.
  • Nuclear radiation levels, although lower than Chernobyl's, are still here.

One of the eerie details surrounding this entire accident was how vast the amount of infected space became after the nuclear plant malfunctioned. The town was closest to the No. 4 reactor, Pripyat, a city of 49,000, which saw plummeting numbers in the coming years.

Interestingly, the isotopes Strontium-90 and Caesium-137 are still present in the area, with many people who visit claiming the air feels different. An issue with trying to contain such a massive nuclear explosion is the long-lasting effects it has on the community. The most dangerous of the elements released around the power plant have half-lives of 8 days, 29 years, and 30 years respectively. This could easily mean many more years of unsafe living conditions, even far from Chernobyl, hence why there aren't droves of people heading to these surrounding towns.

Are There Tours Through Chernobyl?

In order for tours to be possible, certain areas have been designated as 'safe' with reasonable levels of radiation that are comparable to that of a long plane flight. Therefore, tourists must still be with their tour guide or specialist and only endanger their own lives by veering from the tour group.

  • Tour Guide: Tourists Must Come With A Tour Guide

Certain areas are still registering too high in terms of radiation, and they're marked as hazardous, including places such as the basement of the hospital, where clothes were discarded from the first responders who were exposed to the highest levels of radiation.

  • High Radiation: There Are Some Places With Higher Radiation to Avoid

Since the first responders - and everything they had on them - were so close to the reactor, it will take much longer for the radiation attached to these items to disperse and break down.

Related: 25 Stunning Pics Of Chernobyl (And Why We Shouldn't Set Foot In It)

Visitors to Chernobyl will also be subject to radiation checks, which entail gauging how much radiation exposure they've had prior to entering Pripyat, as well as a check when they leave the exclusion zone.

  • Radiation Checks: Visitors Are Subject to Radiation Checks

Overnight tours are also available, and tourists can spend up to two days in the area but are subject to strict rules, including a curfew, in order to limit exposure to any remaining radiation.

Next: Chernobyl and 9 Other Places Thrillseekers Should Visit

logo

  • New Zealand
  • North Korea
  • American Samoa
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Solomon Islands
  • Philippines
  • Vatican City
  • Dominican Republic
  • Liechtenstein
  • Personal Development
  • How To Start A Blog

Visiting Chernobyl: A Guide (Rules, Safety + Things To Know)

July 22, 2021 | Views: 1,984

Visiting Chernobyl

Visiting Chernobyl isn’t everybody’s cup of tea for a “holiday” and it leads to a lot of questions and assumptions.

Why would you want to go there? Is it still safe? These queries get asked even more so than when I am visiting patently dangerous countries .

In recent years, HBO produced a TV miniseries about the disaster, which piqued interest in visiting Chernobyl, and shined a light on a dark period for modern-day Ukraine and its neighbouring nations.

Let’s say you ask the other type of questions.

How does one get to Chernobyl? What is it like? Will I be safe if I go? 

I’ll do my very best to answer both types of questions above, as always based on personal experience, whilst attempting to use critical thinking over ego.

Edit: Due to the current war in Ukraine, life is sadly  very  different in the country since my visit and that should be taken into consideration before reading. I recommend this very detailed and well-written update about life in Chernobyl .

Table of Contents

What Exactly Happened in Chernobyl?

Let’s set the scene. It’s 1986 and Ukraine is still part of the USSR (only just).

Pripyat, a small town in north Ukraine is home to Chernobyl, a nuclear power plant, responsible for producing around 10% of Ukraine’s total electricity. 

In the cruellest of irony, during an experiment to test a new way of cooling the core in an emergency, the nuclear reactor experienced a surge of power causing a huge explosion. This explosion spewed huge hot lumps of graphite into the open air along with potent radioactive material.

Over the next few hours, radioactive waste poured out in the form of heat, steam and pure radiation; toxic material that was picked up from as far away as Norway and Denmark. 

In true “iron curtain” style, authorities didn’t deem the explosion an emergency straight away. It was only after a fair few radiation sickness incidents and poisoning cases that the Soviet powers were forced to organise an evacuation of the city a few days later. 

Since then, there have been no “legally recognised” residents in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Due to the dangerous levels of radioactive material that remained in the Chernobyl power plant ruins and the wider city of Pripyat, the entire area has become a modern-day ghost town. 

Frozen in a freeze-frame of time, the city’s famous Ferris wheel, abandoned schools, and overgrown streets have become a symbol of eeriness and a reminder of the fall of Soviet power.

Where is Chernobyl Located?

You’ll find Chernobyl in the northern regions of Ukraine, not too far from the country’s border with Belarus. It’s very conveniently located just a couple of hours’ drive from the capital city of Kyiv, which is where you’ll need to base yourself to make a visit to this abandoned city. 

Chernobyl is still considered a volatile area, with high levels of radiation and a pretty dangerous exclusion zone, so you can’t visit without an official guide. Tours are easy to organise from Kyiv, and you’ll need to set aside at least a day or two for a worthwhile visit to Ukraine’s capital while visiting Chernobyl. 

If you have time, you can join a tour for two days, which includes an overnight stay (I did this and it’s one day and one night).

For the sake of understanding a usually confusing part of this story; Pripyat and Chernobyl are completely different cities. Pripyat is around 15km away, but most of the employees of the nuclear plant lived there and that’s where you see most of the famous Chernobyl landmarks online.

How Historically Accurate Was The HBO Chernobyl Drama?

Since the disaster took place, there’s been a lot of coverage on the causes and devastating consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. Some of this has been focused through a western-centric lens, while other docu-series and books have been bravely written by Russian and Ukrainian writers.

One of the newest interpretations of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is the 2019 HBO miniseries, Chernobyl. In the mainstream media, the series was praised for its masterful production and historical accuracy in both events and the overall look of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Despite this, it was also met with some criticism too; critics were unhappy with how the Soviet constructs of power were portrayed . For example, the Chernobyl mini-series claims that the Soviet authorities were reluctant to seek outside help. 

When, in reality, US acute radiation sickness expert Robert Peter Gale was invited to Moscow straight away. The guides seemed to be divided when I was asking all the questions while visiting Chernobyl, with some impressed by the show and others having a dig at any given opportunity.

For the most part, it seems that the HBO Chernobyl drama managed to accurately retell the events of 1986, but it’s worth keeping in mind that artistic license was definitely at play in some parts. 

Do People Still Live in Chernobyl Today?

After the explosion and the delayed evacuation of Pripyat, many locals simply refused to leave the area. Just a handful of them returned weeks or months later to find their homes and rebuild their lives. Amazingly, around 150 people live in Chernobyl today, and 7,000 people in the surrounding area. 

Due to the clean-up process, the site can never be completely abandoned. Security guards, maintenance workers, firefighters, and scientists work in shifts of either 15 days a month or 4 days per week to help minimise their exposure time to radiation. As for the residents of Chernobyl, most have lived into their 70s and 80s since returning and (surprisingly) have even outlived many residents who relocated .

Wildlife of Chernobyl (Mutated Animals?)

The higher powers of the USSR and Ukraine may have ordered the people of Pripyat to evacuate the town, but there was no stopping mother nature. With humanity abandoning the area, trees and foliage began to claim back the concrete and steel, turning the city into a jungle-esque wilderness frozen in time.

This drew back a bounty of wildlife back to the area, with surprising results. Levels of radiation fell as time passed and thousands of animals have returned to the area. Brown bears, wolves, lynx, bison, deer, moose, beavers, foxes, badgers, wild boar and raccoon dogs have all made the area around the city their new haven.

You may have heard reports of radiation mutating cells in animals, leaving you with images of two-headed horses and six-eyed deer. Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t come across anything of the sort during your visit. 

I did see the saddest-looking, skinny little fox though, but that could genuinely happen anywhere.

Small genetic changes right after the accident, such as partial albinism in swallows or a loss of insects in the area have been noticed, but the mutant radioactive monsters of imagination are just that. 

Although the long-term effects of the radiation fallout are hard to predict, the absence of human activity has provided better short-term outcomes for the wildlife of southern Belarus and northern Ukraine than could have been foreseen.     

How Safe is it to Visit Chernobyl Today?

The site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters has to be incredibly dangerous, doesn’t it?

Actually, not so much. 

Since Chernobyl has become such a tourist hotspot in Ukraine, safety measures are extremely tight, and the chances of absorbing a harmful amount of radiation are pretty slim. That’s as long as you stick to the rules…

There’s a 30km restriction zone around the Chernobyl site, and you’ll need a certified tour company to grant you a pass too. Around the nuclear accident site, there are more checkpoints where you’ll need to show your pass, so you won’t be able to wander off alone.

Other than off-limit zones with obviously fatal doses of radiation; the wider Chernobyl site isn’t as unsafe as you might think. Exposure to radiation is measured in sieverts, with a lethal dose of radiation measuring at three to five sieverts in an hour. 

During your tour of Chernobyl, you’ll be exposed to around 130 to 2,610 microsieverts per hour – that’s 0.00261 of one whole sievert – this is no more than the radiation you’re exposed to during a typical long-haul flight.

With a professional tour guide showing you where to and not to go and your trusted Geiger counter to monitor radiation as you walk around Chernobyl and Pripyat, you’ll come back just as you left.

Why Would Anyone Want to Visit Chernobyl Anyway?

To many, the thought of travelling across the world to visit a site of macabre destruction and tragedy is both senseless and even to the point of being in bad taste. And yet, this pure curiosity about the negative sides of humankind and our inherited interest in the major disasters and conflicts our species has faced is something quite universal. 

There are few places on this earth where a stronger example of humanity’s sudden departure can be seen. The vegetation that has swept through the town of Pripyat has a quality to it as if a lost civilisation has been stumbled upon, preserved down to the last school lessons found waiting for the children to return, which they sadly never did.

In my experience, some people seem to pick and choose what is right and wrong when it comes to where to travel, making it up as they go along with inconsistencies while hiding behind a faux-outrage and moral superiority.

There are some rather immovable critiques for visiting North Korea because pretty much all of the money goes to a brutal, totalitarian government , but I don’t see an issue with visiting Chernobyl, The Killing Fields of Cambodia , or Auschwitz.

It’s less about where we travel for me and more about how we travel (appropriate conduct for the place).

For myself, it is easy to see why thousands rush to visit the Chernobyl site each year, it is far more than morbid curiosity. As is the case with any other place where people have lost their lives, a sense of respect and caution should be adopted when visiting Chernobyl. 

I personally don’t see it as “disaster porn” or simply “dark tourism,” and I think those who assume the worst of people in these situations see the world through a very dark lens themselves.

Sure, there are some people who make very bad decisions with photos in places like this, but the vast majority do not have warped minds or nefarious intentions.

Chernobyl is still a reminder of death for many and as such, should be treated with the same solemn respect you would treat a cemetery. 

Charities that Support Chernobyl 

Even though it’s been 35 years since the Chernobyl meltdown, the effects are still felt today in the contamination zones (Ukraine/Belarus/Russia). For this reason, there are multiple charities set up to help local residents with medical aid and quality-of-life care. Additionally, some tours donate a portion of their proceeds to Chernobyl-related charities. 

  • Chernobyl Children International – CCI helps children and families affected by the Chernobyl disaster through various humanitarian aid programs. 
  • Aid Convoy – This charity provides aid via convoys to the Chernobyl region. 
  • Friends of Chernobyl’s Children – FOCC provides aid (medical/dental/educational) to children that live in badly contaminated areas of Belarus. Once a year they will bring them to the UK to live for a month.
  • Chernobyl Children’s Trust – CCT is run by Irish volunteers committed to helping impoverished children living in contaminated and disadvantaged areas of Belarus.
  • Chernobyl Heart – This UK charity helps fund Gomel Children’s Hospital in Belarus, where many sick children require care from a desperately underfunded facility.

Can You Visit Chernobyl Without a Guide? (Includes Tour Options)

As I mentioned earlier, you can’t enter the restricted areas surrounding Chernobyl without the help of a local guide. Let’s be honest, who would want to wander around a radiation-infected city alone?

You’ll need to organise your tour at least a few weeks in advance, if not longer when you’re visiting in the peak season. This is because your tour guide will need to organise a pass for you to get through the restricted area, and this can take a while to sort out. 

Booking ahead will also guarantee that you actually get a place on a tour. You’ll only need one full day to see the entire Chernobyl site, complete with a night in Kyiv either before or after. Alternatively, you can join a tour that stays overnight in the accommodation near Chernobyl.

The high season in Ukraine crashes during summer and autumn; the months of  June, July, August and September. Not only is there far more foot traffic, but the weather is also at its hottest. Visit Chernobyl during the shoulder seasons of Spring and pre-Christmas, and you’ll enjoy temperate weather and far fewer crowds in the streets.    

With that being said, I went in August and there wasn’t an overload of people, I am guessing there are so many allowed at one given time.

How Much Does Visiting Chernobyl Cost?

This really depends on the type of trip you’re looking for, and where you’re travelling from. If you’re already in Kyiv, then you’ll simply need to factor in the price of the tour itself. For a day tour, you’re looking at around ₴2870 or $105 USD per person. If you want to experience a night in Chernobyl, then you’ll need to fork out around double that price for a 2-day, 1-night tour.

I stayed over for one night after a full-day tour, which is referred to as a 2-day tour. My guide picked me up at the hotel and I paid 210 Euros – make sure you don’t forget your passport , as it’s obligatory. 

Every single Chernobyl tour begins from Kyiv. If you’re already based in Ukraine, the handy train system will get you there pronto. Sleeper trains from the brilliant city of Lviv take around seven hours and cost between $10 and $25 USD depending on the class you choose. (If you’re after a decent amount of comfort, avoid third class, and opt for second).

Alternatively, if you’re flying into Ukraine, especially for Chernobyl, you’ll need to touch down at Kyiv’s international airport Boryspil International Airport. You’ll find direct flights here from most European capitals as well as from Georgia, Dubai and Turkey. 

Those travelling to Ukraine’s capital from outside of Europe can expect to make one stop off in either London, Amsterdam or Warsaw.

There are endless places to stay in Kyiv, from top-of-the-range hotels to humble Airbnb and hostels. Fitting perfectly with the perception of Eastern European economics, accommodation in Ukraine is extremely affordable. 

Some tours will pick you up from the local train station so getting accommodation here can be thoughtful, while other private tours will offer to pick you up from your hotel. (Mine did, they were called ‘Gamma Travel.’)

Safety Rules When Visiting Chernobyl

To save you from getting into trouble or causing offence, it’s worth following the safety rules set out by your tour guide. Some of these may not be obvious, but it’s good to know to avoid any weird situations like the suddenly half-naked guy who went into a restricted area and had to remove his jeans immediately.

In the Exclusion Zone, you cannot:

  • Eat or smoke in the open air
  • Touch any buildings or vegetation
  • Sit on the ground
  • Place photo or video equipment on the ground (bring protection for tripod legs)
  • Take anything outside of the exclusion zone
  • Violate the dress code (no open shoes, shorts, t-shirts, skirts)
  • Stay in the Exclusion Zone without your certified guide

What to Wear When Visiting Chernobyl

What you wear to Chernobyl is pretty much dictated to you by the rules of the exclusion zone. You have to wear long trousers, long-sleeved tops and closed-toe shoes. The idea behind this is pretty simple; you’re about to enter an abandoned city that’s been left to the elements for three decades. 

You’ll walk past exposed brickwork, broken glass, splintering wood and plenty of radioactive debris. The last thing you want is any of this getting on your skin. 

Other than official requirements, it’s worth keeping the weather in mind too. In the winter months, so between December and February, temperatures in northern Ukraine can drop to as low as -12°C. If you’re visiting then, you’ll want lots of layers, a good coat, some warm gloves and a toasty hat. 

Footwear is pretty important too in Chernobyl – remember that this place hasn’t been touched in 30 years. A pair of hardy walking boots would suit you best when you’re walking around the abandoned city and grounds. 

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not unheard of to come across broken glass, exposed nails and all sorts of debris scattered across the streets, so having a hearty-soled shoe is a must. 

My Experience of Visiting Chernobyl (Including My Overnight Stay)

The build-up to visiting Chernobyl was pretty intense. On the day of travelling to visit one of the world’s most catastrophic nuclear disasters, it’s hard to put into words any particular kind of emotion.

I’d seen the show and read stories from survivors, so I thought I might know what to expect. But nothing really sets the scene as well as experiencing the place yourself. So, I set about joining a day-plus overnight tour from Kyiv.

After meeting my tour guide and the rest of the group at a pretty sketchy roadside, we were on the road for about two hours. It didn’t take long for the high rises and busy streets of Kyiv to disappear, and the open roads and cornfields of the Ukrainian countryside to appear. 

Two hours later, our tour van pulled up to the first security checkpoint, hidden somewhere in the rugged forest that surrounds Chernobyl. From this checkpoint, it’s another 10 miles until you actually get to the site of nuclear reactor number 4.

But, before we made a beeline for the scene of the crime, we made a stop off at some pretty eerie places. We started off in the main square of Pripyat, which had been completely taken over by nature. 

Instead of a busy town square filled with people, there were concrete slabs that had been upturned by roots, towering trees blocking the view, and hotel signs and adverts that had faded from the building side. 

Our tour guide took us down some steps and to the river – with pretty strict instructions not to touch, and definitely not to drink the water.

Away from the main square, our guide led us to the abandoned funfair – probably some of the most iconic images of the Chernobyl disaster. After seeing so many pictures of the fair, I didn’t expect this to be as eerie as it was. 

But there’s something about bumper cars hastily abandoned mid-course that just doesn’t sit right. Not to mention the huge Ferris wheel that still squeaks in the wind and makes a half-arsed attempt to move. 

Worse still – much of this amusement park was never actually used – Pripyat was evacuated before it could be.

After soaking up the sombre atmosphere in the “city centre”, we were driven to a small abandoned village on the outskirts of Pripyat. We stopped at what looked like a small hut, hidden in the forest. 

With remnants of children’s toys, it didn’t take too long to realise this was the village school. Inside were just four rooms; one filled with rusting bunk beds, the other with faded ripped posters inscribed with the Cyrillic alphabet, and another with decapitated dolls and broken toys dotted around.

After this was the main event; a fleeting visit to the problematic reactor. Nowadays it’s contained by a giant metal dome, which should (hopefully) keep the radioactive matter contained for a good number of years.  Visiting the reactor is pretty surreal, but you won’t see much – just a big metal structure from a safe distance away. 

A quick photo and a higher than average reading on my Geiger Counter while taking in the feeling of place, impossible to imagine the scenes that went on during those moments.

Before you leave the exclusion zone, you’ll have to go through a radiation screening to see if you’ll take anything nasty into the “real world”. This time I got the green light and was free to go, with all my clothes intact. 

There are three hotels in the Chernobyl area and I stayed at Hotel Desyatka. It had an intensely strong Soviet feel to it, which I guess is part and parcel of visiting Chernobyl.

' src=

Anthony Middleton

Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

How to start a lifestyle blog and make money

Read All About Eastern Europe and Ukraine

death wall Auschwitz

The Best World War 2 Places To Visit in Europe

Wooden sandals for hammam in Istanbul, turkey

5 Best Turkish Baths & Hammams in Istanbul (Every Budget)

Man making a silly face with a towel wrapped around his head

Turkish Bath For Men: My (Honest) First-Timer’s Experience!

chernobyl illegal tour

Go2Chernobyl

ILLEGAL TOURISM CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE

ILLEGAL TOURISM CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE

Illegal tourism of the Chernobyl exclusion zone

The official organizer of trips to the Chernobyl exclusion zone go2chernobyl.com offers a very high level of service. Visiting Chernobyl and Pripyat with the help of professionals is simultaneously extremely safe. After all, exciting and interesting programs along with the safety of our customers are the most important for us.

This, as for the legal and safe trip to a place that drives almost all extreme people and lovers of unusual vacations crazy.

Today we’ll talk about another type of visit to the Chernobyl zone - illegal. It’s worth saying right away that we don’t do this and we don’t advise you.

What is illegal Chernobyl tourism. It can be qualified as illegal penetration beyond the perimeter of the Chernobyl exclusion zone and the zone of unconditional (compulsory resettlement) without the permission of the administration of the zone and without an accompanying person. The so-called stalkers penetrate the crossings, bypassing the checkpoint at your own peril and risk. The purpose of the campaign, as a rule, is an illegal visit to Pripyat and Chernobyl-2 (ZGRLS Duga), which is 30 km on foot in a straight line in one direction and 30 km back, not by asphalt and smooth road. At the same time, you need to remain unnoticed and not fall for numerous patrols.

To visit the pearl of the exclusion zone - the city of Pripyat, while experiencing all the difficulties and finding out how dangerous the Zone is alone, risking your life at times - is this a worthy goal? For someone, oddly enough, it turns out yes.

What can I say. All further information may be used for educational purposes only. The go2chernobyl.com team is not responsible for people who decide to practice this type of visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. We are for legal Tours.

Firstly, visiting the exclusion zone without the knowledge of the administration is a violation of Ukrainian law.

The area is constantly patrolled by police, and sometimes there are helicopter overflights. Helicopters are used to a greater extent to identify fires in the summer. Equestrian and motorcycle patrols, as well as a large system of roadblocks, are also common in the zone. The detention of illegal stalkers occurs constantly, almost every day. There is a constant struggle against illegal immigrants in the ChEZ.

If you go legally on a tour with go2chernobyl.com, you will have a special pass, the permission of the administration to visit the ChEZ, you will be accompanied by a qualified guide who will give you a lot of useful information, answer all your questions, you can chat with dumpers and workers ChZO in a relaxed atmosphere ...

Secondly, in the exclusion zone, people are in the power of mother nature, who has chosen almost the entire exclusion zone. Numerous packs of wolves and wild boars, which obviously will not be happy to meet strange guests, will not very pleasantly surprise people who dare to do this. This is especially true in the winter. Recall that illegal immigrants go on their hikes year round and it’s stupid to think that something bad can happen to anyone but not to you.

In the hot season and not only illegal, another surprise awaits - a large number of reptiles, in particular vipers and clouds of midges. Snakes well, what can I say ... If an illegal immigrant, who will be tens of kilometers from civilization, is bitten by a snake during his campaign, the standard actions that were taught at school should be followed. Here it is a matter of tolerance by each person of a dose of poison and a strength of immunity possessed by a grief tourist.

Even reaching the nearest illegal checkpoint you cannot be sure that there is an antidote. We'll have to wait until he gets to the hospital. And if the unfortunate tourist does not have special insurance operating on the territory of the ChEZ, then this is generally sad ... So think for yourself.

A huge amount of midges will not let go. Well, it’s just impossible to go when there are swarms of incomprehensible living creatures circling over you, which haunts you and does not want you to take even a step. If you follow the advice of some stalkers who have experienced difficult trials during illegal trips, you should take such actions to rid yourself of midges - to light a fire from pine branches, soak in the pungent smell of this New Year tree. Stop, and the smoke can issue a patrol, which, as always, is nearby and is waiting for such unfortunate tourists. Advice, of course, not really ... Try using liquid smoke (just kidding).

Thirdly: the dilapidation of buildings in villages and towns, in which, in any case, it was illegal to stop for a halt or overnight leaves much to be desired. The floorboards are rotten long ago, the roof can fall on your head at any time. If a fracture of the lower or upper extremities occurs, the stalker will have to get to the medical care center on his own, and his campaign will not end there. They will help him, open an investigation, interrogate, hold him accountable, pass on information to the place of work (study). Yes Yes exactly.

Fourth, the forcing of rivers and reservoirs creates for mountain tourists very large problems

chernobyl illegal tour

IMAGES

  1. This photographer took an illegal tour of Chernobyl. Here’s what he saw

    chernobyl illegal tour

  2. 31 An illegal tour of Chernobyl ideas

    chernobyl illegal tour

  3. An illegal tour of Chernobyl ⋆ Russian Urban Exploration

    chernobyl illegal tour

  4. An illegal tour of Chernobyl ⋆ Russian Urban Exploration

    chernobyl illegal tour

  5. How To Visit Chernobyl Without Taking an Official Tour

    chernobyl illegal tour

  6. An illegal tour of Chernobyl ⋆ Russian Urban Exploration

    chernobyl illegal tour

VIDEO

  1. inside chernobyl

  2. You Can Tour Chernobyl Now

  3. Chernobyl tour

  4. Things seen in Chernobyl #shorts

  5. HBO Chernobyl vs real Chernobyl

  6. Livestream

COMMENTS

  1. See Photos Taken on Illegal Visits to Chernobyl's Dead Zone

    Thirty-one years after the worst nuclear disaster in history, a group of self-proclaimed "stalkers" makes illegal trips into the abandoned radioactive city. Photographs by Pierpaolo Mittica,...

  2. How To Visit Chernobyl Without Taking an Official Tour

    When Richter, a British writer and photographer, decided to take an illegal tour of Chernobyl, it was not to seek an adrenaline rush or to be rebellious — he wanted to get a better picture of the place. " [The Ukrainian Exclusion Zone] is a huge area.

  3. Chernobyl exclusion zone

    The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was the site of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces during the capture of Chernobyl on 24 February 2022, as part of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. [14]

  4. The Guide Smuggling Tourists into Chernobyl

    Every year, thousands of tourists visit the restricted zone around Chernobyl, where on April 26, 1986 the worst nuclear accident in human history took place. After the accident, the area around...

  5. Chernobyl's Dead Zone: See Photos Taken on Illegal Visits

    Published 22 Dec 2017, 15:49 GMT. Photograph by Pierpaolo Mittica, Parallelozero. An estimated 200 tons of radioactive material festers beneath a steel containment structure inside Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear catastrophe in history. Weightless, odorless, and invisible to the human eye, it has leached into the ground and swept ...

  6. Chernobyl: Photos show illegal urban tours around abandoned nuclear

    Illegal tour of Chernobyl visits forgotten sites Show all 25 Since the explosion of a nuclear reactor prompted a mass evacuation in 1986, access to the 1,000sq-mile area around the...

  7. An illegal tour of Chernobyl

    An illegal tour of Chernobyl ⋆ Russian Urban Exploration An illegal tour of Chernobyl At last, our long-held dream of visiting the CEZ (the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) came true. Loading... It all started with a search for a guide - a true Chernobyl stalker.

  8. I Got Access to Chernobyl's Deadliest Area

    Though thousands of people have toured the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, almost no one has been allowed inside the New Safe Confinement to document what I'm abou...

  9. Chernobyl: Is it safe to visit the nuclear disaster site?

    Illegal tour of Chernobyl visits forgotten sites Show all 25 However, the reactor overheated and generated a powerful explosion that sent plumes of radioactive material two kilometres into...

  10. Chernobyl's 'illegal' tours stopped

    Chernobyl's 'illegal' tours stopped. Chernobyl, one of the world's most unlikely tourist attractions, has shut its doors to tourists after prosecutors alleged that the takings were not being spent ...

  11. Chernobyl and the dangerous ground of 'dark tourism'

    Chernobyl is one of the most popular examples of the phenomenon known as dark tourism - a term for visiting sites associated with death and suffering, such as Nazi concentration camps in Europe...

  12. You Can Now Visit Chernobyl's Control Room, if You're Quick About It

    SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images The control room of reactor 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant—one of most ominous places on Earth—has become tourist attraction. As we reported over the...

  13. Visa Free Chornobyl: Illegal Tours to the Contaminated Zone

    10 out of 10. It is difficult to think of a more serious trip in the territory of Ukraine. The Chornobyl zone is guarded by its own police regiment, the units of National Guard, and border guards. They patrol on cars, motorcycles, horses, and make ambushes with thermal imagers.

  14. How the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. inspired a wave of real-world

    These games built a cult following, particularly in Eastern Europe. They inspired live-action roleplay events, themed airsoft tournaments, and festivals such as the 2009 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Fest in ...

  15. Are Tourists Safe For Chernobyl? As Danger Drops, Problems Rise

    As Danger Drops, Problems Rise. Chernobyl has a flourishing tourism industry. At least 60,000 people visited the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine in 2017, according to official government data ...

  16. Chernobyl: Over 35 Years On, Is It Actually Safe To Visit?

    Summary. Chernobyl will be habitable again in about 20,000 years due to the long-lasting effects of ground absorption of radiation. Visiting Chernobyl is now considered safe, but there are still risks associated with touring due to the structural instability of the ruins. The closest town to Chernobyl is Pripyat, which still has lower levels of ...

  17. Chernobyl to become official tourist attraction, Ukraine says

    Visitors buy snacks and souvenirs at a souvenir shop next to the Dytyatky checkpoint after a tour in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, on June 7, 2019. ... the illegal export of scrap and the use of ...

  18. Illegal tourism: Chernobyl Zone by the eyes of Stalker

    Illegal Tourism: Chernobyl Zone by Stalker Eyes Chernobyl Urbex / 2018-02-15 / chernobyl stalker tour, Chernobyl Zone, Guided Tours, Prypiat, Stalkers, urbex tour expeditions How far have you peered at the night sky? Have you ever looked at it… at all? Electric lights nowadays shine much brighter than the stars.

  19. Dark tourism takes to the skies above Chernobyl

    Updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed April 21, 2021 Link Copied! Dark decline: Despite this, the pandemic has put its strain on dark tourism. In 2020 only 32,000 people visited the Exclusion Zone, 72,000 fewer...

  20. ILLEGAL FREEDOM: Winter Journey Across Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

    PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/shieyREDDIT: https://www.reddit.com/r/shiey/INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/shieyfreedom/TWITTER: https://twitter.com/s...

  21. Visiting Chernobyl: A Guide (Rules, Safety + Things To Know)

    July 22, 2021 | Views: 1,976 Observing the infamous Pripyat Ferris Wheel while Visiting Chernobyl. Visiting Chernobyl isn't everybody's cup of tea for a "holiday" and it leads to a lot of questions and assumptions. Why would you want to go there? Is it still safe?

  22. ILLEGAL TOURISM CHERNOBYL EXCLUSION ZONE, tours to Chernobyl

    The purpose of the campaign, as a rule, is an illegal visit to Pripyat and Chernobyl-2 (ZGRLS Duga), which is 30 km on foot in a straight line in one direction and 30 km back, not by asphalt and smooth road. At the same time, you need to remain unnoticed and not fall for numerous patrols.

  23. Is Chernobyl Safe to Visit in 2024?

    Krysja/Shutterstock Yes, Chernobyl remains a radioactive site but is considered safe for supervised, restricted tourism. According to the New York Times, radiation levels at the Chernobyl site are within a healthy range. Nearly 40 years after the disaster, visitors can visit Chernobyl if permitting and safety restrictions are closely followed.