What it’s Like to Take a Tour of Chernobyl


Pripyat 1970 sign
Pripyat 1970 sign

For as long as I can remember I have always had a fascination (and unhealthy obsession) with ghost towns. There is something so unnerving yet intriguing about visiting a completely abandoned place where people once used to live before something happened to change their lives forever.

On the morning of 26 April 1986 at precisely 1:23am reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant experienced an unexpectedly huge surge of power, which caused explosions in the core of the reactor. The fire which resulted from these events sent a large cloud of extremely radioactive particles into the atmosphere. This cloud was then blown over most of the western Soviet Union and Europe. The town known as Pripyat was affected substantially and now exists as a ghost town.

It has been estimated that around 985,000 premature cancer deaths have occurred since that day as a result of radioactive contamination received from the incident.

After seeing some pictures of Chernobyl online and learning that you could actually take a tour of Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat, I knew that I wanted to work this experience into my time in Eastern Europe.

It was probably the thing I was most excited about on my entire trip.

chernobyl pictures
Paying our respects to the Chernobyl firefighters who lost their lives.

After congregating in Independence Square a group of around 20 of us boarded a coach to begin the two hour trip to Chernobyl. The first checkpoint was the 30km exclusion zone checkpoint, marked by a barrier across the road. It was guarded by policemen who checked all of our passports before allowing us to continue on.

Throughout the drive a DVD was playing giving a history of Chernobyl and showing horrific photos and video of the aftermath, with unsettling interviews with the survivors.

Needless to say we were all starting to feel a little bit apprehensive by this point. 

As we approached the 10km exclusion zone I began to notice more and more derelict buildings in the distance. No longer occupied, they had trees growing in and around them, and some were completely destroyed. We all grew silent as we imagined how the rooms looked now. On the DVD they showed one lady returning back to her old home for the first time 25 years later. Everything was just how she left it.

When she was evacuated she was told to take nothing and that she would return in a few weeks.

Before heading into Pripyat we were taken into a small room to sign a waiver stating that if any one of us were to contract cancer or any other health issue the tour company was not to be held liable.

As an extremely anxious hypochondriac, I was beginning to wonder if taking this tour was such a good idea after all… 

But there was no going back now. I signed the form and we returned to the coach to drive to the town of Pripyat.

Pripyat 1970 sign
Pripyat 1970 sign

The town of Pripyat was founded in 1970 and its main purpose was to house the workmen of Chernobyl. At the time of the accident, almost 50,000 people were living there. In true Soviet Union fashion, the streets were typically named Lenin Avenue, International Friendship Street, Heroes of Stalingrad Street.

It’s hard to put into words exactly how it felt walking around Pripyat, and even now I don’t think I’ve completely managed to digest the experience.

Part of you just feels like you’re walking around a building site with smashed windows, books thrown everywhere, broken floors and ceilings. It’s impossible to understand the enormity of what happened.

Yet the other part of you starts to wonder how this town looked before the incident. You imagine the people going about their everyday lives, happy and completely unaware of the devastation that was about to occur.

This used to be their home, and now it’s just a graveyard of past lives and memories.

Our tour of Pripyat took us around apartment blocks, and hotels, to the community centre, the swimming pool, school and amusement park.

Pripyat apartment block
Pripyat apartment block
Hotel in Pripyat
Hotel in Pripyat
The Pripyat Energetic community centre, which housed a theatre, library, and dancing room.
The Pripyat Energetic community centre, which housed a theatre, library, and dancing room.
pripyat cinema
A faded mural on the wall at the community centre.

We stepped outside and went to visit Pripyat’s famous amusement park. I found it interesting to learn that the amusement park actually opened on the day of the incident. It was used to calm down and distract the residents of Pripyat whilst they were waited to be evacuated, so it was only ever used for one day.

The famous Pripyat ferris wheel
The famous Pripyat ferris wheel
Pripyat swing
Broken down swing
Pripyat dodgems
Dodgems at Pripyat

I actually found visiting Pripyat’s swimming pool the most harrowing and unsettling experience of the tour. Just something about wandering around, looking in the changing rooms and seeing old swimming pool equipment lying around. For a moment I just stood there and closed my eyes and imagined what it must have been like 25 years ago – full of children laughing and playing without a care in the world.

Pripyat swimming pool
Noticeboard outside the swimming pool
Pripyat swimming pool
Diving boards at the swimming pool

We then got to explore one of the schools of Pripyat.

games in pripyat classroom

school noticeboard pripyat

pripyat classroom school chernobyl

pripyat classroom school chernobyl

creepy room filled with gas masks

As a final stop we drove to the sarcophagus of reactor 4 – a massive concrete structure built around the reactor to prevent the radiation from being released into the atmosphere.

chernobyl reactor four

After a quick test to confirm that I was not radioactive, we were free to leave the exclusion zone and that concluded my tour of Chernobyl!

When I got back to my hostel at the end of the day, I wasn’t sure how I felt, and I’m struggling to put it into words now. It was an unsettling and uncomfortable day, and I felt strangely numb by the end of it.

Over the following weeks and months I definitely feel that it helped to put my life in perspective, and now whenever I’m feeling down and grumpy about something, I think back to the people of Pripyat who lost everything that day. Before I took the tour I read the following quote online “If you choose to visit these places you will never be the same person as you once were” and I think that sums it up perfectly.

A few days ago the Ukraine government cancelled all tours to Chernobyl, and it will no longer be possible for anyone to visit the site. I’m glad I got the opportunity to see it for myself and I hope my photos have given you an insight into what it’s like to wander around the ghost town of the worst nuclear fallout site in history.

What do you think? Given the opportunity would you have liked to have visited Chernobyl and Pripyat? Or am I completely insane for even wanting to go in the first place?!

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139 Comments

  1. Jeremy Branham
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    What an eerie experience! It definitely is a ghost town. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the people there or for any of them to come back and visit. I don’t even know how I feel about all of this but thanks for sharing. It’s creepy, sad, and tragic.

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      That sums it up perfectly. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have to leave your home and never be able to return.

  2. George
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    I am totally jealous I wish I had had the opportunity to do this, but your post sums it up well. I think it is very brave of you to go. It really does put things in perspective xx

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      It definitely does, and it was a lot harder than I was expecting it to be.

      • Francis Tapon
        October 11, 2011
        Reply

        Why is that, Lauren? Was it harder emotionally? Physically?

        How about the cost? How much was the tour?

        That’s interesting that they canceled the tour after having just opened it up. Weird. I sneaked in 2004. :)

    • justin
      May 31, 2013
      Reply

      with as much background as i have of chernobyl and the dozen books i have read your blog has touched me. These people had absolutly no time to gather there belongings from the apartments its an amazing story and i encourage everyone to read about it its very moving. sadly ive heard rumors about them closing touring in 2009 i am unsure about today..

  3. Mike
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    Good post, obviously a moving experience!!!

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      It was indeed!

  4. Micah
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    Great photos, Lauren! Bummed to hear they cancelled the tours – glad you got in while you could.

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Micah! I freaked out when I’d heard they’d cancelled the tours as I thought it was due to unsafe levels of radiation! Apparently it’s just because the tour companies keep all the money instead of donating it to Chernobyl!

  5. Chris
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    My sister used to be obsessed with ghost towns too, funny stuff! Hope you don’t have radiation poisoning now! ;)

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      I had the longest shower of my LIFE when I got back to my room!!!

  6. Leanne
    September 22, 2011
    Reply

    Very interesting to read. I too am a little obsessed with this sort of stuff. The movies like On The Beach really draw me in. Scary but so so interesting at the same time. Probably because it could happen and what would the survivors do if it happened on a large scale. Makes you think alot.

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      …Especially when you think that nearly a million deaths resulted from the incident. It changed so many lives forever.

  7. Amanda
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    They’ve already suspended tours to Chernobyl? Didn’t they JUST start offering them in like February? That’s odd.

    But this topic is interesting. I’m actually planning to write my master’s thesis on this idea of “dark” tourism, so reading your responses to your visit to this place is very intriguing!

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      Hey Amada, I think they’ve been doing them for a few years but the government keeps disagreeing with the tour companies, as they’re keeping all the profits for themselves and not using the money to improve the situation in Chernobyl. They might open it again in the future.

      Glad my post could help, don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anymore information for your thesis! :)

    • Siri B
      February 14, 2012
      Reply

      Hey Amanda!
      I would love to her more about “dark” tourism – am going to Pripyat this autumn, and am interestad in hearing about other places you consider “dark”.
      Thanks!

  8. jade
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    holy crap- that room with the gas masks is super creepy! I actually love the signage in that one photo, but all the rest give me the hebejebees!

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      It’s funny, one of my biggest phobias ever is of gas masks! It took A LOT of courage to walk into that room, and i ran back out squealing straight afterwards! Shudder!

  9. I Hart Travel
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    The amusement park, gas mask and the classroom photographs are definitely the most harrowing and poignant.
    I commend you on having the bravery to go there. The place really looks like the cities they show on Discover Channel’s series about what would happen if humans no longer existed.
    Great post!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      I know, it felt like walking around the set of a zombie movie!

  10. Cookie Hart-Thomas
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    Eerie….just a preview of where the genius of MANkind is heading.
    Thank you for sharing this experience….

    • Lauren
      September 23, 2011
      Reply

      No problem :)

  11. Sarah
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    You are so lucky to squeeze yourself onto one of those tours before they got cancelled. Excitement!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      I know! If I’d have arrived in Kiev a few weeks later I would have missed out!

  12. Julia
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    Well it’s sad that they have cancelled the tours because now people can’t pay their respects at the site. As harrowing as these experiences are I’m totally with you on the whole wanting to see them thing. After visiting Auschwitz a few years ago and then the War Remnants Museum in Vietnam last year I felt very sombre and it really does put things in perspective for you, especially when we all have a tendency to moan about such insignificant things sometimes, then realising that other people lose their whole lives over something out of their control. So sad, but you’ll be so glad you made the trip.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      I really am glad I got to experience it for myself. I hope they open the site back up again soon.

  13. Allison
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    Man, I would have loved to visit the site. Too bad they closed it. Your pictures definitely made me feel numb as well, I can’t imagine experiencing it in person. The pool would have really haunted me as well. Something about empty pools. I took a tour of the Queen Mary in California and one of the stops was at the pool and it just sent an eerie feeling all through me. Thank you for sharing!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Yeah, I think it’s because you associate pools with echoing sounds of laughter, so it feels really eerie to be near one where there’s complete silence.

  14. Rachel
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    Fascinating, thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it, Rachel! :)

  15. Jordan
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    I’ve seen lots of images of this place, it really feels like a post-apocalyptic world. You’re brave for going in there!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Definitely! Very very bizarre walking around it and hard to describe what it’s like too.

  16. Jade Johnston
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    Oh no! they have stopped doing tours? I really want to go there….darn! But then again who knows… it may very well be open again before I actually make it back to Europe

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Yeah, they were stopped for a while earlier this year and started back up again a few months later, so you might get lucky! :)

  17. Erik
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    This looks like a remarkable thing to do. Nice job sharing the experience with your readers.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Erik. I’m so glad I got to do it.

  18. Weekend travel reading - Chernobyl, the Cotswolds, and more | Budget Travel Adventures
    September 23, 2011
    Reply

    […] A tour of Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat – Never Ending Footsteps […]

  19. Aussie on the Road
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    I am so, so jealous. Visiting Pripyat is one of my all time travel dreams. Makes me a bit morbid maybe, but these photos just fascinate me.

    Ghost towns have been my thing since I spent a few years living outside of one in the Aussie outback.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Hopefully it’ll reopen and you’ll be able to visit then :)

  20. wandering educators
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    this is so creepy, the complete desolation. i am glad you went – thank you SO Much for sharing!

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you liked it. It was very creepy!

  21. Michael
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    We totally get why you did this. Those are awesome pics. I just wrote a post about trying to get my wife to travel to Chernobyl for our 25th anniversary. Here’s the post: Maybe your pics will convince her!

    BTW, we just got back from Pyongyang, North Korea which sort of looked like some of your photos.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Awesome!! I REALLY want to go to North Korea!

  22. Dicky
    September 24, 2011
    Reply

    Great post, fantastic photos. I came to your blog via “My walkabout.”

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you liked the post and photos! :)

  23. Audrey
    September 25, 2011
    Reply

    It’s so eerie seeing how things slowly crumble and nature eventually encroaches. It’s like people never lived there to begin with…

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Yeah, that’s exactly it! It made me wonder how it will look in another 25 years..

  24. Traveling Ted
    September 25, 2011
    Reply

    Growing up we used to drive down to Missouri for summer vacation. We always passed a beach town called Times Beach. An environmental disaster caused the spread of dioxin in the town and caused the evacuation of the area. We could see the town from the interstate, and we always looked to check it out, so I understand your infatuation with ghost towns.

    These photos and this post do a great job of taking us along on the tour. How eerie to see the classrooms and other buildings completely empty.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      I just had a look at Times Beach, it sounds so interesting and now I want to go check it out! :)

  25. Laura
    September 26, 2011
    Reply

    This is a really great account of your tour! I work in the industry and have wanted to visit Chernobyl for a long time. I hope they resume the tours soon! It sounds like a very eerie, dark experience.

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks, Laura! I hope so too! It’s a shame that others wont be able to experience it..

  26. Matthew Karsten
    September 26, 2011
    Reply

    Crazy photos! Were areas in the buildings roped off, or could you walk around anywhere?

    • Lauren
      September 26, 2011
      Reply

      You could walk anywhere you wanted! Literally they just took you to the buildings and we all went off walking in random rooms and taking photos. As long as you didn’t touch anything (so you dont get cancer!) then it was fine.

  27. Reena @ Wanderplex
    September 26, 2011
    Reply

    This is fascinating! I’d love to visit, but am of course very apprehensive… on a rational level I know it’s meant to be safe when visiting for a short period, but it’s hard to get past the concerns about radiation.

    I enjoyed going there vicariously through you!

    • Lauren
      September 27, 2011
      Reply

      I know the feeling, i had the longest shower of my LIFE when I got back to my hostel! A few days afterwards I got a cold and all the glands in my neck swelled up, and I was convinced it was cancer from the radiation! Hahaha.

      But seriously, they have people there that work there every single day. It is much less radiation than you receive on a plane so it’s pretty safe :)

  28. jill- Jack and JIll Travel
    September 26, 2011
    Reply

    Great photos and great story…. I wonder why they decided to cancel the tour. Sad, I would’ve loved to visit.

    • Lauren
      September 27, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks Jill! They closed it as the tour companies were keeping all of the money for themselves as opposed to using it to help the Chernobyl site. Hopefully they can come to some sort of resolution and reopen it in the future.

  29. Alison
    September 26, 2011
    Reply

    Very interesting article. It must have been so strange walking around here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren
      September 27, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks, Alison! It was definitely a strange feeling.

  30. stellamaris
    September 27, 2011
    Reply

    All the experiences we live they are good or not they are our … Living all that you lived there served to think and rethink how fragile we are … You must be aware, and increasingly value our time, we do not know what’s coming … You can live it and certainly will never be the same … Now surely you’re better … Congratulations … kisses

    • Lauren
      October 12, 2011
      Reply

      Definitely agree with you there!

  31. Becky
    September 27, 2011
    Reply

    These photos made me shiver a little! I find haunting places fascinating too, just that feeling of how desolate they are. The disused fairground looks particularly spooky!

    • Lauren
      October 12, 2011
      Reply

      The fairground was really creepy!

  32. Shirlene from Idelish
    September 28, 2011
    Reply

    How eerie! you’re very brave to have visited this site. Truly appreciate that you also took the time to capture your experience and share it with those of us who may never step foot in that area in our lifetime!

    • Lauren
      October 12, 2011
      Reply

      Glad you liked the post, Shirlene :)

  33. Ali
    September 30, 2011
    Reply

    Definitely sounds like an interesting and creepy experience. Shame they canceled the tours because I think it would help people understand what happened better if they could see it. I saw your comment about why they canceled the tours, hopefully they’ll start up again with tours that will actually donate the money.

    • Lauren
      October 12, 2011
      Reply

      Definitely agree. Hopefully they will open back up soon as it’s something that everyone should be able to experience if they wish.

  34. Friday's Recommended Reads - September 30th - Aussie on the Road
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  35. Erik
    October 12, 2011
    Reply

    A good read, and very similar to my experience. I was there during March and there was about 10″ of snow everywhere.

    Our tour company let us walk around by ourselves and as such we visited some buildings that we were not supposed to, and it is very unsettling to see how the homes have been plundered, and other places have been left as is (such as the school, the swimming pool, the gym).

    The snow I thought made it even more creepy, you’re in a ghost town with 12 people in total, the snow cracking under every step you take. Absolutely amazing experience, I’m very glad I took the opportunity I had when I was in Kiev.

  36. stellamaris
    October 12, 2011
    Reply

    Today October 12th Children’s Day in Brazil, here is my tribute to Chernobyl children who dreamed of a future and could not have …

    Song of the New World – Beto Guedes:

  37. Humberstone – A ghost town in Chilean desert
    October 26, 2011
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  38. NLM
    October 30, 2011
    Reply

    Thank you for a really wonderful post–you photos really captured it. I didn’t realize that the tours had been discontinued–glad you go to go.

  39. Natalie T.
    October 31, 2011
    Reply

    Wow! Cool photos! Great post.

  40. Kerri
    November 1, 2011
    Reply

    Wow, this was a great post. Sounds like a sad but inspirational tour. I had never heard of this place until I stumbled across it… thank you for sharing your experience.

  41. A Lady in London
    November 1, 2011
    Reply

    Wow, what a unique experience! I’m not sure whether I would have had the courage to go, but your account was great to read.

  42. Claire
    November 10, 2011
    Reply

    Wow, great post, amazing photo’s!

  43. The GypsyNesters
    November 19, 2011
    Reply

    Amazing post – your photos really sucked us in to your mood of that day – THAT’s what great photography is all about. We’ll be talking about this for the rest of the day. -David & Veronica

  44. Travel ideas from bloggers for 2012 - Time Travel Turtle
    December 28, 2011
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    […] To get a better understanding of history, it’s important to visit locations like Chernobyl, but as Lauren says in her post, “it’s impossible to understand the enormity of what happened”. Still, I can’t […]

  45. Shane
    April 25, 2012
    Reply

    I think many people don’t understand and hell I may be wrong. However I think you still can visit. I just think its limitation is much stricter and you must apply through whomever you choose to take you through this tour 11 days in advance at least. They have to get you a pass into the exclusion zone and only then can you enter. So I do still think tours are being given, it’s just much stricter in how you gain access to the zone. If I’m gathering my information right. It seems very complicate but something I am interested it. Which may be strange considering im only a 15 year old kid who has just some fascination with deserted places such as Pennhurst and Pripyat. I really wish I were interested before Pennhurst was converted into a haunted attraction. Just fascinates me with the story and history behind the places and to think what happened.

    • Lauren
      April 26, 2012
      Reply

      Yes, you can now visit Chernobyl but at the time I wrote about this (September 2011!) you couldn’t.

  46. Lee Carter - Global-Goose
    April 28, 2012
    Reply

    I have been fascinated with Chernobyl for years. When I was much younger we were collecting for a Chernobyl charity and I asked why they needed the money, “Their town blew up” was the response I received, No Kidding

  47. Ron
    August 29, 2012
    Reply

    I always had a fascination with Chernobyl. Being a Physicist must have been part of it for you. . .

    Nuclear power is a frightening force.

  48. Sarah
    August 31, 2012
    Reply

    There are no words to describe this !! I couldnt take my eyes of this page !!
    Lauren you are just phenominal !! Xxxx

  49. mint boy
    October 28, 2012
    Reply

    just watched Chernobyl diaries an it scared the crap outta me your brave going there

    • Siri
      October 29, 2012
      Reply

      mint boy: Chernobyl diaries is a crap film, made in Serbia, by ppl who’ve never been to Ukraine or read anything about Chernobyl. At all. There is NOTHING correct about that movie!

  50. Silverfawn
    November 14, 2012
    Reply

    I admit, I would not willingly go in person to tour a nuclear meltdown area, either in Chernobyl or in Japan. Your eerie and evocative photos are fascinating and cautionary at the same time. You have made it possible for everyone to catch a glimpse of the forbidden. Thank you for sharing this strange journey with us.

  51. Pao
    November 19, 2012
    Reply

    everytime i see the FAMOUS FERRIS WHEEL and the SWIMMING POOL with DIVING BOARD…and the APARTMENT blocks…

    i remember CAPT. JOHN PRICE in CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE….

    ^_^

  52. NARESH RAMINI
    December 18, 2012
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    Thanks for sharing!
    I read your writing after having watched ‘chernobyl diaries”. Started researching more on it, yours write up was one among my few google search results.
    Thank you once againg for sharing your experience and your pics give more insight!
    Cheers!

  53. NARESH RAMINI
    December 18, 2012
    Reply

    Your pics gave* more insight of what you were expressing in your writing!

  54. Lowell
    February 14, 2013
    Reply

    Short term exposure isn’t anything compared to living in the “Zone” .

    I think more people should be interested in these modern phenomena.

    Cancer is an “industrial-age” disease.

    If the U.N. chooses to ignore and/or discredit Cancer rates from this Corporate-Fallout it is their Hell to enjoy.

    Fukishima dropped off the Media Radar, & O said we’re damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead with Nuk.

    If you put 150 Nuks on-line tomorrow, they’d only reduce “fossil” fuels required by 17% for the U.S.A.

    So now, 3mile was a quality control issue, where a new valve replaced failed to work. Chernobyl, well, incompetant Humans, not understanding what the design was of their reactore, created the runaway China Syndrome. The we have Fukishima, where our best laid plans to protect against problems from Natural desaster were undone by an earth quake and ftsunami double punch.

    Hmmmm.

    Nuk fuel rods, the area they mine is from becomes toxic, the rods themselves when spent are still 1000x-deadly for thousands of years.

    How is it peoiple don’t think how stupid this is?

    France has a 50BILLION waste problem, all Nuks.

  55. AJ Skinner
    February 21, 2013
    Reply

    They are now operating 3 of the 4 reactors on that EXACT power plant

  56. Andrew
    February 23, 2013
    Reply

    I have always been fascinated by nuclear stuff, I tried to build a reactor out of the old smoke detectors once at age 12, had 50 or so of the radioactive discs of Americium-241 out of them but it never even got warm, later found out it was the wrong type of radiation. I always wanted to visit the site and playing Call Of Duty on the PS3 where one level is played in Pripyat is pretty realistic to some of the picturs of the swimming pool and fair ground, it’s horrible to think the people in the station died within a few mins once the reactor blew even though they were unharmed by the explosion the shear dose of radiation they got killed them, it’s increadable (but extremely sad) that something you can’t see could do this, also sad to see that peoples stuff is still there and the people lost everything they had, like you said it looks ok and a lick of paint and new windows it could be lived in but can’t because of an invisible deadly force, would still like to go one day, thanks for sharing your pictures.

  57. Sam
    July 15, 2013
    Reply

    Very interesting count. I was wondering, how did you get to the exclusion zone? Did you book an organized trip with a local agency? If so, would you mind sending me their details.
    Thanks.

    • Siri
      July 15, 2013
      Reply

      Sam, there are several agencies that arrange trips into the Zone, and they’re all interested in package deals (they can fix you up with hotel, trips to the shooting range and driving tanks etc). I tried one company last year (not too impressed) and are trying another one this year, if you want their details lemme know and I’ll find it for you.

      • Sam
        July 16, 2013
        Reply

        Dear Siri, thank you for the reply. I would be very interested in knowing what other activities are available besides the visit to the exclusion zone. A shooting range and driving a tank sound very interesting. Let me know how your experience goes this year. I’d love of course to have the details of both agencies.
        thanks you!

  58. Siri
    July 16, 2013
    Reply

    Sure thing! Send me an email (bjoner hot mail com) and I’ll send you a link to the pics we took last year!

  59. Poppy
    July 26, 2013
    Reply

    Only now in July 13 did I read your story. Much interest of late in Pripyat and the horror. I appreciate your sharing these insights. Must admit pure envy, strangely, not in some shallow way but as in wishing I could pay similar homage. Thanks for allowing me to see and feel the place through youe eyes.

  60. Mark
    August 21, 2013
    Reply

    Have just stumbled across this after reading todays news about the Fukushima plant leaking 300 tonnes of radioactive water and the effects it could potentially have on life. The news crew were following staff around the town checking radiation levels and I immediately thought about Pripyat and the devastation caused there (obviously) on a larger scale.

    This got me revisiting pripyat via google earth and then Wikipedia and the tours available, then stumbled over your review, experience and thoughts. As everyone else has said, your words are moving and your pictures are chilling yet effective.

    As a member of the scouting movement in North Wales in the 90’s, one of our local scouting hostels was being used by children directly affected by the disaster and from what I remember was organised by a charity giving them holidays away from their everyday life as their life expectancy had been dramatically reduced due to exposure. From the age of 12 it has had me thinking about how lucky we are and certainly puts alot of things in perspective and what we take for granted.

    Thank you so much for sharing a well written and informative experience

    Mark

    • Lauren
      November 14, 2015
      Reply

      Oh, thanks so much, Mark! Glad my article could resonate.

  61. Cate Brubaker
    September 9, 2013
    Reply

    I went on the Chernobyl tour in July 2012 and it’s always going to be one of the top reasons I feel giddy when I think, “I actually did that!” It was the experience of a lifetime!

    • Lauren
      September 18, 2013
      Reply

      It’s definitely one of my travel highlights too! :-)

  62. Sherlin
    September 24, 2013
    Reply

    Hey,

    Thanks so much for sharing these invaluable images and the story of your visit to Pripyat.

    May the lost souls rest in peace with God.

    • Lauren
      September 24, 2013
      Reply

      No problem, Sherlin. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      • Sherlin
        September 25, 2013
        Reply

        Hi Lauren,
        It seems you love to travel around the world. Why don’t you make a visit to Sri Lanka :-)

        • Lauren
          October 3, 2013
          Reply

          I’d love to visit Sri Lanka! I just haven’t made it there yet… but I will. One day :-)

  63. Jen
    October 21, 2013
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing this! Luckily, the tours have reopened. My friend went in 2012 and got some incredible images on film, also.

    • Lauren
      October 22, 2013
      Reply

      Yes, I get the impression they seem to stop and restart the tours several times a year! :-)

  64. nadia mohd zaini
    October 31, 2013
    Reply

    hai lauren, im nadia from malaysia.. i just watched chernobyl diaries few days ago..and i was interested on that movie..when i do a blogwalking bout chernobyl, i found ur website..it was exciting.. i think if i can get there.. it was very fantastic journey

    • Lauren
      November 3, 2013
      Reply

      I hope you manage to visit, Nadia! :-)

  65. Brittney
    November 10, 2013
    Reply

    I so badly want to go on a tour of Chernobyl! Considering sneaking in if they never start up tours again.

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2013
      Reply

      I’m 99% certain they’re currently running tours again, Brittney.

  66. Andrew Darwitan
    January 18, 2014
    Reply

    Given the opportunity, I definitely want to visit Pripyat. It really fascinates me. It’s one of those places (another is Easter Island) that remind us humans on how much our development has impacted the environment in ugly, ugly ways. And it’s chilling just how much the Chernobyl disaster has affected the local people there. Look at those rooms filled with personal belongings that they didn’t have the time to take with them, forever preserved that way. Eerie.

    • Lauren
      January 19, 2014
      Reply

      Absolutely. Eerie is the perfect way to describe Pripyat. I hope you get to see it for yourself one day :-)

  67. Bradley
    February 2, 2014
    Reply

    My name is Bradley, 7 years ago I was stations in Chernobyl and I was also in Pripyat for 8 months thrue the SAS as a part to help for relief, on those 8 moths I was there, its not the story’s that get to you its your periferal vision that causes your mind to see things that aren’t really there, I seen many men and woman after just 3 days that were driven insane like the place was torturing them, one man who was Soviet Russia n Intelligence was saying he could hear the help crys of the victim’s and one thing he said that stayed with me for the last 7-8 years is, “Help, I’m stuck they keep telling me to stay, my daughter is at her grandparents they are sick.. please.. please.” I don’t know if he had lost it or if he was really channeling these things as I am a firm believer in supernatural, all I can say is. Yes it changed me forever being there. And the most earey place I visited was the RED FOREST as red as blood and as quiet as a whisper some nights in Pribyat you could hear animals howling and when all of a sudden one person in your squad screams in the middle of the night you jump, you grab your side arm and you get ready to shoot. The place really puts you on edge.

    Hope this short story of mine was an insight that it still effects people today.

    • Lauren
      February 2, 2014
      Reply

      Wow, thanks for sharing, Bradley. I can only imagine what it would be like to live their for 8 months, and to hear those stories — just 8 hours had me unnerved.

  68. Jason
    February 2, 2014
    Reply

    Pripyat has always fascinated me. I’ve always been intrigued by natures attempts to reclaim the places humans have touched as well.

    I’ve tended to neglect Eastern Europe in favour of more ‘exotic’ places, maybe this year I’ll manage to explore slightly closer to home!

    • Lauren
      February 2, 2014
      Reply

      You should — Eastern Europe is amazing! It was the first region of the world I visited on this trip and I can’t seem to stop returning :-)

  69. eric arnason
    April 15, 2014
    Reply

    hi lauren im a 9th grade student and we have to do a presentation on the effects certain things and we chose nuclear radiation on living organisms and after i saw this i was stunned i would of loved to see it expecially after seeing the movie chernobyl diaries XD but this was just perfect i love creepy things you are really lucky and all this creepy things gas masks everywhere in that one picture looked so creepy like holy crap thank you so much for this post

    • Siri B
      April 20, 2014
      Reply

      Hi Eric!
      I hope you’re not basing your presentation on “The Chernobyl Diaries”, cos there is nothing in there that is remotely true! They even have the radiation sickness all wrong… :)
      Best, Siri.

      • Lauren
        November 13, 2015
        Reply

        :-)

    • Lauren
      November 22, 2015
      Reply

      No worries, Eric! Happy you enjoyed the post :-)

  70. Tedd Baron
    May 7, 2014
    Reply

    Wow! For some odd reason, I’ve always wanted to see the fair city of pripyat for myself! I’m a firm believer in the old adage ” those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”. Your article wad both written send illustrated beautifully! I do hope that of they haven’t already, they resume tours! I’d love to see Pripyat for myself!

    • Lauren
      November 22, 2015
      Reply

      Thank you! I think that tours are now running again.

  71. Julia
    May 24, 2014
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and these photos with us. My family is from Ukraine and I’ve visited a lot when I was younger, but never had the opportunity to go to Pripyat. The locals stay away from the town because of the radiation, but I’ve always wanted to see it. It’s so sad and tragic looking at how deserted it’s become. On a different note though, have you ever heard of Poveglia island in Italy? That’s real creepiness as far as ghost towns go! It’s considered the most haunted and evil place on earth. I’d be interested to see a blog post from you about if you ever do go there :)

    • Lauren
      May 24, 2014
      Reply

      I haven’t heard of Poveglia Island, no. But it sounds fascinating! I’ll add it to the list :-)

  72. Kristin
    September 2, 2014
    Reply

    What a surreal experience… I think the school and the amusement park would give me nightmares for weeks!

    • Lauren
      September 7, 2014
      Reply

      Surreal is a great way of describing it :-)

  73. Erykah
    September 28, 2015
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    My partner has always wanted to see Pripyat, I was wondering where/who you went through to organise this tour as it seems pretty decent? Do you have a chosen tour provider or just look up something when you get there (I apologise if this is answered elsewhere?)

    Regards
    Erykah

    • Lauren
      October 27, 2015
      Reply

      Hi Erykah. Sorry! It’s been over four years since I visited and I don’t remember the name of the company I went with. I will say that every tour company seemed pretty identical and there wasn’t much difference between them.

    • Siri B
      October 27, 2015
      Reply

      We’ve tried a couple, and SoloEast (tourkiev.com) are by far the best. Knowledgeable and friendly guides who give that little bit extra. I recommend the two-day tour and stay in the Chernobyl cottage – it’s awesome!!!

      • Lauren
        November 11, 2015
        Reply

        Thanks for the information, Siri!

  74. Ann
    February 13, 2016
    Reply

    I am so happy I found your site. I also have a fascination with ghost towns & I was able, sometime back, to read one of the first books published about the devastation & view the pictures within, so I can only imagine your feelings stirred seeing these sights in person. From time to time, I’ll also search Youtube, as a few of the former residents have gone back & it’s interesting to hear their thoughts & memories.

    One thing I wanted to say, was I made a deliberate search for Chernobyl today, and before I chose your site, I’d let you know that as of 2/2016 I saw sites that were offering tours much the same as you described. Suprisingly, the prices appear quite reasonable for a day tour, lunch & transportation too.

    And now that I’ve found your site, I can hardly wait to live & travel vicariously with you. Stay safe & have fun!

    • Lauren
      February 28, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Ann! I’ll edit my post to reflect that tours are now running :-)

  75. Ava Meena
    July 19, 2016
    Reply

    I definitely would have visited. I think it’s important to acknowledge these kinds of disastrous events – it helps carry the testimony of the people who lived through it.

    • Lauren
      July 19, 2016
      Reply

      Absolutely agree :-)

    • Viacheslav
      September 4, 2016
      Reply

      Then you should know that evacuation were started only after 24 hours after firealarm on NPP…

      People had 1 whole day living inside this hell…

  76. Maggie
    March 4, 2017
    Reply

    You should listen and watch the video of Ghost town by Hans and Dr.beeker. You feel the sorrow for the people and the stupidity of the government for denial of the horrors they allowed by not evacuating quickly.

    • Lauren
      March 6, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out.

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