One of the most radioactive places on Earth, Chornobyl (Chernobyl) receives thousands of tourists every year. After the construction of a new safe confinement arch over the old shelter structure (sarcophagus) in 2019, the levels of radiation dropped significantly, and safe guided tours became quite popular here. According to official data, 70,000 visited the Exclusion Zone in 2019, and since then the number of tourists has been increasing. Along with the notorious reactor 4, such excursions typically involve wandering in the abandoned city of Prypiat (Pripyat)—scary and beautiful at the same time. Additionally, tourists can see the radar system "Duga" (literally "curve"), which was once a secret Soviet over-the-horizon radar.
Chornobyl nuclear disaster happened on April 26, 1986. The fourth reactor of Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in Prypiat, exploded all of a sudden due to the flaws in the design of the reactor and probably mistakes made by the plant operators. Shortly afterward, 160,000 people were evacuated from this area to the nearby cities. Around 50,000 of them were the Prypiat's population. They were not aware of the scale of the catastrophe and expected to be back in a few days. However, most of them never saw their homes again.
Some locals, however, were not willing to accept the fate and abandon the Chornobyl area. A few hundred residents of the nearby villages returned to the contaminated area, which was officially declared unsafe. Some of them still live there, growing plants on the radioactive grounds and drinking radioactive water. They claim radioactivity doesn't scare them off. A documentary shot in this area became the winner of the Los Angeles film festival.
Most of the land in the 30-kilometer Chornobyl Exclusion Zone is totally desolate. The homes, schools, kindergartens, hospitals,—everything in the area has remained untouched since the day of evacuation. The astonishing decay proves the fragility of our world: one day you thrive, and another day everything is lost.
Chornobyl tours run from the capital city of Kyiv and also from Lviv. There're one, two, and three-day options. A single tour can accommodate around 20 participants. During the trip, you will be constantly measuring the radioactivity levels around. You are required to wear long sleeves, trousers, and shoes, and not to take them off while in the contaminated area. It goes without saying, nothing is to be touched, no radioactive souvenirs are to be taken home. Visitors are not allowed to eat in the area.
The tours are available year-round, but some seasons are better than others. Summer might be too hot, especially considering long sleeves. Besides, lush vegetation is not favorable for photoshoots. Winters are cold, snowy, somewhat bleak, and pale. March–May & September–November, especially mid-spring and mid-fall, are the best seasons, with less vegetation, and good lighting.
How many tourists visited the Exclusion Zone in 2019?
The Exclusion Zone welcomed 70,000 visitors in 2019, and the number of tourists has been on the rise since then. Despite its reputation as one of the most radioactive places on Earth, the area is becoming more and more popular among travelers. Show more
When did the Chornobyl nuclear disaster occur?
On April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, resulting in the evacuation of Prypiat and the 30-kilometer area surrounding it. The disaster still ranks as one of the world's worst technological catastrophes, heavily impacting people and the environment. Show more
Where are the Chornobyl tours available from?
Kyiv and Lviv both offer Chornobyl tours throughout the year. These tours span one, two, and three days to accommodate a variety of schedules and preferences. Visitors will receive constant guidance and be informed of safety procedures and precautions during their visit. Show more
When is the best time to visit the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone?
The best times to visit the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone are March to May and September to November, specifically mid-spring and mid-fall. During these seasons, the lack of vegetation facilitates better visibility and lighting for photographic opportunities. The temperature range is also comfortable, avoiding the extremes of summer and winter. Show more
What are the safety requirements for visitors to the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone?
Visitors are prohibited from consuming food within the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. Long-sleeved clothing, trousers, and footwear are required. Tour operators will supply clothes and dosimeters that show radiation levels in real-time to ensure guests do not exceed safe radiation exposure levels. Removing souvenirs or objects from the Exclusion Zone is illegal and dangerous. Show more