Chernobyl Pripyat |Crazy Walking Tour in Exclusion Zone
Updated: Jan 7, 2021
The 1986 disaster has been well documented and the recent renewed interest following the HBO mini series has highlighted people’s appetite in understanding what happened and how the area is still affected. Surprisingly, if you speak to local people in Kiev most will tell you they have no interest in visiting the zone, and few have done so. This may also be because the tours do cost quite a bit of money.
Many companies offer tours for one or more days from Kiev, and tripadvisor or google will bring up a long list. Note that you cannot visit the exclusion zone on your own, you MUST be on a guided tour. There are military checkpoints and passport documentation that needs to be completed before your visit. This all forms part of the overall cost of the tour. We chose https://www.chernobyl-tour.com and paid $USD 99 including a lunch and a geiger counter. Charges vary on certain dates, check the website for full cost details and remember you need to book in advance due the passport information being checked.
We have created a full video on our YouTube channel about Chernobyl so make sure you watch this in addition to this blog. Chernobyl Tour Video>
Leaving Kiev at 8 am from a meeting point near the main train station, it's about a 2-hour drive to the first checkpoint of the exclusion zone. Depending on the day and number of bookings for the tour, you could be in a small minivan or a full-size coach.
Wait time at the checkpoint is around 30 minutes and this is necessary for the officials to check tickets and view your passport. Yes, you will need to take that with you as its essential to get in to the zone.
You will then be tagged with a radiation monitor but if you choose it you can also get a geiger counter for an additional fee which most people seemed to do. As we found out this was fun but annoying because it would go off all the time. What did we expect, we are in the most radioactive place on earth!
At this point I wanted to mention the toilet situation.
There are very few places that you can stop, as you can imagine this is an abandoned zone, with some high-risk areas. Toilets are at the checkpoints and vary between horrible to disgusting, so be prepared. There are no facilities to wash hands in the zone apart from the food canteen so bring sanitiser and toilet roll with you. Where possible try not to need a number 2!
Inside the 30km exclusion zone the coach stops at the first abandoned town Zalissya
We were given 20 minutes to roam freely around the town which once boasted a school, palace of culture, supermarket and homes for some 3200 people.
Torn down and buried as an experiment Kopachi was the only town to have this fate. A kindergarten building is all that remains? Authorities thought that burying the town would reduce the radiation quicker. In fact, it pushed the isotopes deeper into the soil and contaminated the water table further making the situation worse. Why the Kindergarten was left, I don't know.
Duga Radar System
Hidden in plain sight the Duga Radar System was not actually part of the Chernobyl disaster, apart from being inside the exclusion zone. In fact, it did not even draw its power from the power station.
Created for use during the cold war it was a system designed to detect missiles from the West namely the USA. There was another duplicate system in Siberia
Displayed on a map as Chernobyl 2 and mentioned as a children’s activity camp the facility was located in a wooded area some 7Km from Pripyat but very visible due to its 150 m height.
Now a derelict blast from the past, it’s extremely interesting to visit the eerie area still high with radioactive readings. An army barracks is also positioned near by and forms part of this leg of our overall tour.
Reactor 4 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Having seen the disaster unfold on the news, and the subsequent documentaries, nothing prepares you for being right in front of the reactor. It was hard to comprehend that we were there some 33 years after the event.
Now with its new containment sarcophagus fitted in 2017, radiation levels have reduced but the decommissioning of the reactor and the other 3 continue and will do so until 2064.
We spend around 10 minutes in this area and the guide explained much about the first hour of the disaster.
30 incredible people sacrificed their lives for the rest of us in Europe and more should be made of their heroic actions. I was stunned to only be finding out about their critical intervention on this tour.
The monument outside the reactor honour's them on the 20th Anniversary.
As I mentioned the reactors are still being decommissioned and a worker’s canteen provides food for them and the tours. We ate the same menu provided to the workers. Salad, bread, soup, chicken and potatoes.
Pripyat was the workers town prior to the disaster. Some 45,000 people lived here.
Our afternoon on the tour was dominated by a walk around the abandoned town. If you ever wanted to find out what it would be like to just up and leave a place for 30 years and see what happens then Pripyat is the closest you will get to this. As shocking as the tale of delay and miscommunication that lead to the evacuation some 36 hours AFTER the disaster, it was extremely interesting to see how nature and the local animals have regained and taken over control of this area.
Probably the most famous structure in Pripyat is the Ferris Wheel and bumper cars.
Brand new and due to open for the May Day celebrations after day after the disaster it was never really in operation. Shockingly on the morning after the disaster and before the people of Pripyat were aware of the radiation, the local authorises started the wheel to distract the children.
Radiation levels under the Ferris Wheel are some of the highest in Pripyat (still safe). Apparently due to a missed spec of radio active material not cleared by the liquidators.
3 times during our day tour, you need to pass through this radiation unit. It can detect if you have picked up any radiation particles on your clothes or shoes etc.
Very rarely this can happen and to avoid you taking it out of the exclusion zone you would need to be decontaminated.
Before leaving the exclusion zone we get to pass by the actual town of Chernobyl which is about 7 KM away from the actual reactor. The workers that are decommissioning the power plant stay here but cannot live there due to restrictions. Many people sleep in the town in the week and return to Kiev for the weekend or some other rotation avoiding spending to much time in the zone at a given time.
As we leave the zone and head back to Kiev we pass the Chernobyl Liquidators Memorial, near the fire station. A final reminder to the firemen, workers, miners, and liqidators that risked or lost there lives to save the rest of Europe.
We have created a full video on our YouTube channel about Chernoybl so make sure you watch this in addition to this blog. Chernobyl Tour Video>>>>>