For many years it’s been a dream of my husband’s to see Chernobyl and Pripyat. In June, while traveling abroad in Russia, we finally had our opportunity to visit. The process of visiting Chernobyl has changed and now one must apply for a permit with a state-approved touring company at least two weeks in advance.
The drive to Chernobyl is a long and interesting one that will give you a glance into life outside of Kiev as you watch the tour bus documentary about the disaster. Chernobyl itself feels like a ghost-town. What was once one of the Soviet Union’s nuclear fortresses, it’s now almost entirely abandoned and only the local police and workers who continue to keep the plant safe still reside there.
Our tour guide spoke excellent English and was very funny. He took us to all of the important places we could go and gave us a few excellent photo opportunities. Being in this place was very strange. For me personally, walking through the abandoned children’s school, seeing what was once the modern paradise of Pripyat, and standing in front of the nuclear reactor that changed the course of history for the Soviet Union was all very surreal. It is not a “happy” experience, but it’s very educational and incredibly moving.
If you find yourself in Kiev and are not intimidated by the radiation levels, I highly recommend going on a tour to see Chernobyl. If I could change anything about our visit, I would choose the private tour if I were to go again, as I think it would provide better access and time allotment while on the premises. Additionally, the Chernobyl Museum in the center of Kiev is also very worthwhile and was one of the best museums we visited while traveling through post-Soviet countries.
Tours starting at $149
Lindsay Comer studied politics and economics in a master’s program for international students at the European University at Saint Petersburg. She is currently pursuing a career in travel journalism and photography.