When me and my buddy Jirka were thinking where to go next we were looking for some location that is cheap but still, it can offer some crazy experience. It didn’t take long time to figure it out. We decided for the craziest trip ever and we flew to Ukraine to visit the former nuclear power plant Chernobyl.

Before scarring everybody off, we have to say that everyone should visit this place to see what human failure can cause. It is truly a lifetime trip that you won’t forget. The nuclear power plant Chernobyl was the place of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. We won’t go into detail what exactly happened but we definitely recommend you to check the series Chernobyl on HBO Go that depicts the catastrophe in a very powerful way. In 1986 one of the Chernobyl reactors exploded and caused disaster of huge proportions with tens of thousands deaths from the radiation.

Chernobyl is located about 2 hours north of the Ukraine’s capital Kiev. First, you have to fly to Kiev and from there you have to take one of the travel agencies to get to the exclusion zone. Don’t try to go there on your own. It is a military area with a lot of security checkpoints. We heard multiple stories about people constantly trying to sneak into the zone but most of them ended up in prison. Just remember that even though there is no life threatening radiation there are still some spots which are pretty dangerous and without guide you can easily start shining green. Ha ha ha , we are just kidding but stick to the rules and everything will be fine.

We had a short break in Kiev to see this lovely city. It is beautiful historical city with a lot of nice and famous sites to explore. We were surprised how the city looks well and how many nice renovated sights it has. There are also a lot of interesting bars and yummy restaurants all around so if you plan your Chernobyl tour definitely take an additional day in Kiev.

We planned our Chernobyl tour in advance. Unfortunately after the HBO Go series Chernobyl, the zone is totally overcrowded and sometimes there are thousands of people in one day. There is no other option than book it in advance. There only are official travel agencies with which you can go exploring and which have the official permit. Do NOT go with any unofficial agency. They are mostly thieves and you would be disappointed. We went with CHERNOBYL TOUR ® . They have pretty nice reviews and their guides have real experience with the Chernobyl Power Plant because some of them worked in the plant during the disaster.

There is a standard price for these tours of 99 USD per person. Ukraine is incredibly cheap and you won’t spend much. In the price there is not included food (8 USD) and Geiger counter (10 USD). We recommend to include both because you would miss the chance of eating in the local canteen for employees of the plant and you would also miss a lot of fun with Geiger Counter which beeps every time there is higher level of radiation.

Geiger counter
Using Geiger counter is really cool! You can quickly detect hot spots of radiation and it starts beeping!

We went to Ukraine during late October. The main reason for this was that fly tickets were cheap and we saw everything from Chernobyl and its surrounding. The problem with summer or spring is that everything is covered with foliage and not much can be seen from ruins of Pripyat. On the other hand, autumn is perfect time for the visit because leaves are falling down and all buildings of the city are perfectly uncovered. You have quite good visibility not counting it creates the perfect atmosphere of horror.

A lot of people were also asking about the radiation. You don’t have to be afraid because levels are really low and you will receive a radiation dose equal to approx. 1 hour flight. Your guides will always take you through checked routes. Truth to be told that there are still some places like the Red Forest where your bus will only pass by because it would be extremely dangerous to stop. It is the most contaminated area in the world. You will notice it once your Geiger counter starts beeping loudly.

Our first stop was at the military checkpoint Dytyatky where we found out for the first time that the zone is the real deal. Everything was super secure and there were even soldiers armed to the teeth. We could have only guessed the area is still somehow dangerous and not everyone can get in. At the checkpoint we also received our personal chip measuring levels of radioactivity. Later on you will have to go through the radiation check where they would quickly find out if you went too far to some super radioactive place. There were some tourists in the past who tried to steal some objects from the zone. They were quickly caught.

the military checkpoint Dytyatky
Going through several checkpoints can take some time as there are many tourists!

Entering the zone is surreal and the place is completely deserted. Everything looks perfectly preserved like you would go back in time to 1986 when the nuclear disaster happened. Before going to Pripyat we visited a small village Zalissya where we could have explored abandoned dwellings. They look like dying quickly. Most of buildings probably won’t survive another century. Still, you can visit all and see objects of daily life left by residents where they exactly were in 1986. One of the scariest moments came while visiting a nursery school. We could have seen empty skeletons of beds with decaying toys. Some of them even without eyes. What perfect atmosphere like from some horror!

Then we went for another big highlight of our tour. We stopped in the famous city of Pripyat. Back then it was a nice city with its very own beach and right before the disaster happened they even planned to open their amusement park with the Ferris wheel (probably the most Instagrammed place here). It is fascinating to see all of this. All kind of buildings with red stars still standing and showing the best from the communist architecture. The city is clearly deteriorating and in our case we couldn’t have gone inside of block flats because it was too dangerous. Still, powerful experience when you imagine that the whole city of 50k was completely evacuated in just 30 hours.

Pripyat Town Sign
Pripyat Town Sign

The city itself is quite big so be ready to walk a lot. Your guide will probably take you to the main sights and you will then head to eat something in the local canteen. On the way to the Chernobyl power plant we had opportunity to see the most contaminated area in the world – The Red Forest. It doesn’t look so special at first glance but it is definitely scary to hear your Geiger counter beeping like crazy. The levels of radiation are completely red and no-go is omnipresent. The bus just went by and continued further toward the nuclear power plant Chernobyl.

the ghost city of Pripyat
The ghost city of Pripyat is full of Soviet-era buildings
Inside the abandoned city of Pripyat
Inside the abandoned city of Pripyat

Chernobyl is still busy place. There are currently around 7 000 people working at the plant to ensure the New Safe Confinement is working fine and it doesn’t leak any radiation because underneath lies the original Sarcophagus installed right after the disaster. The new confinement came only in 2016 so you can imagine how much work it is still going on there. It must have been immensely hard to move it over the damaged reactor number 4.

Chernobyl New Safe Confinement
Chernobyl New Safe Confinement

Afterwards we headed towards the secret soviet base with its enormous radar “DUGA-1”. This is probably the second most famous location in the Chernobyl area after the wheel in Pripyat. We felt truly overwhelmed by its size and its oldschool beauty. What a large piece of technology! The radar is 150 meters high and almost 1 kilometer long. It once served as a key instrument to detect any nuclear rocket threats. Another great highlight in our tour to the zone.

the soviet era radar Duga 1
The radar “DUGA-1” is just huge!

Our last stop was in the current town of Chernobyl to visit the memorial “To Those who Saved the World” and to see an interesting exhibition of vehicles and robots workers used to clean radioactive dump. It is a great open-air display and it even includes vehicles that were originally planned for space missions. Pretty cool!

On the way back we once again went through the checkpoint where they carefully scanned our chips for any trace of radioactivity and our bus took us to Kiev. In the worst case scenario be ready to leave there any part of your clothing including shoes. Sometimes there are tourists who accidentally stepped on the wrong place in the zone. When it comes to your clothes we either recommend to clean them right after your return or to throw them away because they can still have some radioactive dust on.

Overall this experience was absolutely awesome. It is very unique and special trip that you won’t find anywhere in the world. You will see the place of the world’s worst nuclear disaster with your own eyes. Another reason to visit the Chernobyl exclusion zone is that the site is quickly collapsing day by day so book your trip and go there as soon as possible.

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