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Extremely high levels of radioactivity don't scare off curious tourists who come to discover a ghost town


Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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One of the most radioactive places on Earth, Chornobyl receives thousands of tourists every year. According to official data, 70,000 visited the site in 2019. Some of them prefer to enter the Exclusion Zone around the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant on their own, avoiding guided tours. They ignore extremely high levels of contamination for the sake of wandering in the ghost town Prypiat—scary and beautiful at the same time.

The blast at Chornobyl took place on April 26, 1986. The fourth reactor of Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded all of a sudden, and 160,000 people were evacuated from this area to the nearby cities. 50,000 of them were the Prypiat City'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 dozens residents of the nearby villages returned back to the contaminated area that 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 has become 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 on another everything is lost.

Chornobyl tours run from the capital city of Kyiv. There're one, two, and three-day options. A single tour can accommodate up to 14 tourists. During the tour, you will be constantly measuring the radioactivity levels around. You are required to wear long-sleeves, trousers, and shoes, and not to take it 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. Namely, 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. Spring (March-May) and autumn (September–November) are the best seasons, with less vegetation, and good lighting.

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