More than 10,000 tourists a year now travel to Chernobyl and the adjacent ghost town of Pripyat, the site of the world’s largest nuclear disaster.
In 2017 I went on a pretty cool trip through Romania, Moldova and Ukraine with Intrepid Travel. Chernobyl was the highlight of the 2-week journey through parts of Eastern Europe that rarely get attention in travel media. I wrote about my experience for the Intrepid blog, detailing what it’s like to visit the area. Here’s more detail about how to get there.
How to visit Chernobyl
Plan ahead. The only way to enter the exclusion zone is with an authorized guide/tour operator. I went as part of a more extensive trip—though we used a locally-run, Ukrainian operator for our day in Chernobyl. There are other options, too including Solo East Travel and CHERNOBYLwel.come who offer one-and two-day tours that depart from Kiev.
What to wear
There are rules about what you can wear to Chernobyl. You must be dressed in long sleeves and long pants to get past the initial government checkpoint. You’ll also want to give yourself a spritz of bug spray if you go in summer, as much of the area is overgrown with tall grasses and vegetation.
When to go
I went in August and it was hot. Like 90 degrees. Since you need to be covered, it was a little steamy. While summer offers the most daylight hours (and slightly longer tours due to longer days) early fall or late spring, while the weather is temperate, is ideal. For photo buffs, winter adds a new dimension with the potential for a snow coating on the iconic Ferris wheel and other ruined buildings.
Should you visit
I thought about this for quite a bit, and at no point did it feel exploitive. Money goes to the tour operators based in Ukraine, who employ Ukrainians. We visited one of the last self-settlers, now in his 80s, who returned to the area shortly after the disaster. As part of the trip, we all pitched in to purchase groceries and pantry items for him and spent a good hour chatting about his life. It was also a detailed, though sobering, history lesson given from the perspective of those who live in Ukraine, and not the sanitized version taught in US history class.