Something that has been on my bucket list for years is visiting Chernobyl. Some might find this odd, but I just find it so fascinating, perhaps a little morbid. So one Christmas rather than give me a gift, Billy booked us a trip to Ukraine. How romantic!
When I told people we were going, there were several responses. The main one being “are you sure it’s safe? You’ll get radiation poisoning!” Turns out, visiting for a day is perfectly safe. People actually live and work in the outer exclusion zone (which I believe is around 10 km from the reactor) and tour guides visit regularly.
If you spent two full days there, you’d get the same amount of radiation as travelling on a transatlantic flight.
The other response is “Why would you want to go there?!” I can’t fully explain why places such as Chernobyl interest me, I believe the term is ‘dark tourism’. We’ve also visited Auschwitz. Lying around on a beach isn’t for us, we’ve done this before and found that we just get bored. Exploring and learning appeals to us so much more.
I understand why people would not want to visit places like this but I think as long as you’re respectful (I don’t agree with smiley photos where people died) then I believe it should be experienced. It was part of history and cannot be changed, visiting helps remind us of what we’ve got and be grateful for it. As well as remembering those who lost their lives, the official number of those who died still remains unclear.
We booked a one day tour online with Ukrainian Web. We were emailed a meeting point where the bus would pick us up. Pripyat is about two hour drive from Kiev. Once we got there, we had to go to a check point and show our passports, we were then given a pass and let in to enter.
Entering is a surreal experience, you’ve seen the photos but it honestly is like a ghost town. We were shown around by a guide who gave us a brief history at each point of interest.
The one thing which I was a little disappointed with, is that some things have clearly been moved to get that perfect shot, for example dolls propped up on window sills. This is the only negative and otherwise the day was fascinating.
If you’ve considered going, but were unsure, I say do it. It is something you’ll never forget and be able to talk about for years to come.