The former USSR, now present-day Ukraine, has held humanity’s top dark tourism destination and a sought-after destination on my bucket.
The 30km “Chornobyl Exclusion Zone” in northern Ukraine has largely been off-limits after the human-made disaster in 1986. Nevertheless, a growing community of dark tourism enthusiasts seeks out sites associated with death, disaster, and tragedy to confront mortality and contemplate human existence’s fragility, making the dangerous trek to this one-of-a-kind destination.
I’ve watched and read every documentary about the tragic events that led to the disaster and the devastating, long-term after-effects still being felt today. Many are drawn to the site for its eerie, post-apocalyptic atmosphere; however, exploring Chernobyl is my way of paying homage to the disaster’s victims, learning about its causes and effects, and the chance to see abandoned buildings, rusting machinery, and other artifacts frozen in time.
I landed in Kyiv on a warm summer day, beginning a fantastic expedition that took me through the history of April 23, 1986, and into the radiological wasteland of Chornobyl, Pripyat, and the surrounding countryside, better known as “ground zero.”
Radioactivity is invisible, odorless, and tasteless, a genie that should never be allowed to escape. There are potential health risks associated with continued radiation exposure.
Visiting Chornobyl is generally considered safe for short periods; however, visitors must follow strict safety guidelines and stay within designated areas.
What I experienced in the exclusion zone was a snapshot in time that has remained untouched for the past 30+ years. The animals run wild, all tagged to track their population and buildings decaying and collapsing as nature begins to reclaim the ghost town that was once a bustling city.
Chornobyl tourism destinations
Chernobyl Power Plant
Located in Northern Ukraine, reactor four at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26, 1986.
The ghost town of Pripyat was home to 50,000 people and was evacuated after the explosion at Chornobyl.
Duga Radar Station
The Duga radar station was a soviet over-the-horizon radar station used to detect missile launches globally. It was so powerful that radio and TV sets heard a noise resembling a woodpecker, which gave way to its name, the “Russian Woodpecker”