Chernobyl Power Station

Visiting Chernobyl & Pripyat

Pripyat View From Building

For anybody not aware of what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, a quick search on Google should bring you up to speed with the history. Any visit to Ukraine should definitely include a tour of the Chernobyl area.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to just grab your backpack and take a look at this place; every visitor must give 11 days’ notice of intention to visit and tour guides are required for entry into the 30km zone.

Why visit Chernobyl and Pripyat

Pripyat - In Russian

Even if you’re not that interested in history, visiting Chernobyl is a backpacker must. With 26+ years of nature over mankind, every street is overgrown with trees and it’s a testament to the world we live in. Animals are free to roam wherever they wish, without fishermen the fish grow to sizes unheard of, and it’s a reminder to everyone who visits that regardless of human destruction, natural life will go on.

Visiting Pripyat

Pripyat Hotel

Probably the most documented of all the areas of Chernobyl, then made more famous by computer games such as Call of Duty is the city of Pripyat, Chernobyl, Ukraine. Pripyat was founded in 1970 to support the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station and was once the home of 50,000 inhabitants.

After the disaster struck, the city was evacuated. However, Pripyat still stands but remains completely inhabitable and overtime has been looted and vandalised. Walking into the city centre you’ll get an overwhelming amazement of its reality, your imagination running wild trying to picture in your head how the city used to look.

Pripyat Swimming Pool

The city today is a capsule of the past, stepping back in time to 1986 USSR. Communist posters still hang on the walls and Russian slogans stand above the buildings; it’s hard not to imagine yourself in those times. Wondering into the apartment blocks will give you a glimpse of how the locals lived; you can still find their favourite books, newspapers, toys or even a piano left to decay. With access all areas and every door unlocked, it will be the best museum you’ve ever visited.

Visiting Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

Pripyat Apartment Block

It’s possible to visit reactor number 4 (where disaster struck), though it’s recommended to stand at least 50 metres away from the sarcophagus as radiation is still quite high. Looking up at the rusting body of the metal structure which surrounds the broken reactor, you don’t feel too protected. And this is probably quite appropriate as the shell is over 26 years old and is overdue a change of skin. Speaking with the guide at the power plant I’m told that plans are to build another shell and slide it over the existing one – an ambitious project by any standard.

There’s a certain feel of Soviet secrecy still in the air, and some rules forbid to take pictures of the sarcophagus from certain angles. When asked “why not?” the answer is a riddle of words that basically makes up “because you’re not allowed”. While it’s a little annoying to not get an answer that you’re looking for, the response only adds to the mystery of the adventure.

Is Visiting Chernobyl & Pripyat Safe?

You can ask yourself if it’s safe to cross the road or even to step out your front door, but because it’s something that we do on a regular occurrence then we would say yes. On the same principle, I asked our guide if it’s safe to visit Chernobyl and of course he would always say yes.

Radiation is now at a very low record and the majority of places you will visit are at a near to normal background radiation level. That’s not to say that there aren’t places still to avoid, the Red Forest is still incredibly radioactive and even in our minibus the Geiger counter went crazy while just driving through it. But, on a 2 or 3 day tour of Chernobyl the amount of radiation you might expect to receive over the duration of your stay should equal to no more than a typical x-ray or long haul flight.

After a good shower you’ll feel fine leaving Chernobyl, though I’d suggest leaving your shoes in the waste bin. :-)

If you would like to experience Chernobyl for yourself, you can take the same 2 day tour at

Author Jimmy Ryan