7 In Dark Tourism/ Ukraine

Chernobyl Disaster: Exploring The Unbeaten Path In Ukraine

The Chernobyl Disaster - the famous ferris wheel from an old building of apartments

Chernobyl Disaster, now more than 32 years ago. The city of Chernobyl, and dark tourism locations in general are becoming more popular to visit by tourists. Curious of the past and seeing it for their own eyes, the destruction and aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Chernobyl is one of the top dark tourism locations that is most visited by curious disaster tourists.

Arriving in Kiev, Ukraine

Back in the month of June 2016 my partner and his long time friend travelled to Ukraine for a long weekend. It had been a place they had wanted to visit for as long as I knew them both.

After the 3 hour flight from Amsterdam they both checked into their rooms at the Ukraine Hotel in the center of Kiev. The city itself has some beautifully hidden local highlights and I can’t wait to share with you those in our separate post about Kiev that is COMING SOON!

Kiev, Ukraine viewpoint - togetherintransit.nl

Nuclear Chernobyl Disaster

The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster as of 2018 was 32 years ago. The city is located just North East of Kiev by only 90 kilometres. Founded in 1193, the city of Chernobyl had a population of 14,000 residents before the disaster. In the past the province of Chernobyl has been in the hands of Poland and Russia, as well as being occupied by the German Army during World War Two.

Control was lost by the operators on the Reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl, causing the reactor to exploded after tests. The lack of safety mechanisms on the reactor made it unstable when operated at low power. The city of Chernobyl was evacuated on 27 April 1986. Within 30 hours after the Chernobyl Disaster at the power plant, the city was empty and abandoned.

You can view Russian aspects within Chernobyl today during the guided tours, such as the Duga radar which was built during the Soviet Union to monitor early anti-ballistic missiles.

Chernobyl has been the most disastrous nuclear accident in history.


Close to Chernobyl is the town of Pripyat, built 4th February 1970 for the power plant workers and their families. A total population of 49,000 residents lived here, which were all evacuated within 2 days of the disaster.

These days, this location is part of the dark tourism tours to the main reactor 4. There are also many movies, books and games that have been produced, written and created about Pripyat.

The sign below is the welcome sign to Pripyat. Now a place where visitors also lay wreaths in remembrance of those who lost their lives and homes here.

The photo below is the entrance to the Chernobyl disaster zone. From this point forward, you can only enter with your tour or if you are authorised to enter.

2 Day Chernobyl Tour

For Saturday and Sunday they had booked a 2 day Chernobyl Tour. This tour was booked in advance for the weekend and they had flown earlier and left later to visit the capital too. If you are interested in a similar 2 day tour, check out the company they visited with here.

The tour took care of everything such as;

  • Travel to and from their hotel in Kiev
  • Overnight stay at the safe and radiation-free in the town of Chernobyl
  • Food and drink over the weekend (but needing to take own drinks/snacks for during the day)
  • A geiger counter to measure the radiation during the visit
  • A well informed tour guide and bus driver (who can speak your language too!)

The Reactor 4

As these photos were taken during my partner’s trip in 2016, the reactor was not yet covered by the large concrete sarcophagus that was built. This was the main reason they had planned their trip in June 2016, as they knew it would be covered only a few months later. This cover was built to reduce the spread of the remaining radioactive debris and dust from the reactor 4 wreckage and the protection from further weathering.

The main cover was moved over Reactor 4 on the 29 November 2016.

The Duga – Soviet over-the-horizon radar system

The Duga was used as part of the Soviet missile defence early-warning radar network. This system was operating between July 1976 to December 1989. The Duga has a nickname as The Russian Woodpecker, as listeners would hear sharp, repetitive tapping noise. The transmitting noise was so powerful it could interfere with radio receivers. The Duga in Chernobyl is 210 meters in width by 85 meters in height.

The Cooling Tower In The Exclusion Zone

This cooling tower is one that they could explore and walk inside during their 2 day tour. It was one of the cooling towers that was unfinished, intended for cooling the nuclear reactors of the third stage of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. There is one artwork inside you can view too, painted in memory of the liquidators of the disaster. It refers to a photo that was taken in 1986 by photographer Igor Kostin, who was at the epicenter virst.

This cooling tower is 120 meters in diameter and 150 meters in height.

Reactor 5

This reactor was part of their tour to see where some of the other workers from Pripyat would spend their days. The reactor 5 is reported to be 70% complete at the time of the accident, with the 6th reactor to be completed by 1994. Interesting to know, is that up to 286 construction workers showed up to continue the construction work at reactor 5 and reactor 6 after the accident at reactor 4. Which was less than 24 hours later! Luckily the construction work was immediately halted until a later date.

The Chernobyl Disaster also affected four factories in total within this area of the exclusion zone.

Signage, Documents and Posters from Ukraine

Within all the photos taken during Chernobyl, these are some of the signs, documents and posters that stood out. They refer to the buildings and factories, to those in charge and learning material from the school. As you can guess, many signs are rusting and are damaged from daily weather in Chernobyl.

A Fire Station Within The Exclusion Zone

This fire station can be seen with wreckages of cars on the rooftop and in the surrounding areas. To the 10 men that worked at this fire station, they sadly all passed away from high radiation levels. They were the first on scene of the explosion and it was not yet known how the radiation levels were. Once the radiation levels were recognised, shift work was set in place for the emergency services who arrived to help. The commander of the fire station, Lieutenant Kibenok, was posthumously recognised as a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Wooden Houses Within The Exclusion Zone

These houses were located within Pripyat. Most houses were of course being taken over by the nature. Many personal items were left behind here, such as children’s toys and clothes.

The Chernobyl Disaster was more than 32 years ago. Here is our photoblog from the visit in June, during a 2 day tour from Kiev. #chernobyl #darktourism

City Of Pripyat

The Theme Park Area in Pripyat

This theme park with the still existing bright yellow ferries wheel is one of the most well known locations in Chernobyl. However eerily it was never officially opened. The opening date for the theme park was on 1 May 1986, but this was officially cancelled on the day of the Chernobyl Disaster. However there is speculation that it was opened on the 27th April before the announcement to evacuate the city, allowing visitors to see the finished park.

The theme park had 5 main attractions;

  • 26m Ferris wheel “Круговой обзор”
  • Bumper cars “Автодром”
  • Paratrooper ride “Ромашка”
  • Swing boats “Русские качели”
  • A carnival shooting game

The Ruined Theatre in Pripyat

There is a cultural building in Pripyat that included a stage area with a piano and another area with a cinema. The cinema area had become extremely damaged compared to other areas.

The Eerie Nursery In Pripyat

The nursery building as you can see included beds for all the children to sleep in during nap time. Some pots were still within the room. It was obvious that they had been placed by previous visitors in the middle of the room for a photo opportunity. However even now after 30 years of the Chernobyl Disaster, you can get a good idea how it was each day for those who worked here daily or grew up here.

The Residential Area of Pripyat

Once the location of families and factory workers, this whole area is completely deserted. Within every floor and every room, many belongings have been left behind during the two days of evacuation. In the last photo you can see reactor 4 with the cover which had not yet been placed over the top.

The School in Pripyat

This school is located in Pripyat, one of many that has not had a lesson in for more than 32 years. Still completely full with all the furniture and learning materials. It was easy to see if the classroom was for a mathematics class or science etc.

Within Pripyat there were:

  • 15 kindergartens
  • Elementary schools for 4980 pupils
  • 5 secondary schools for 6786 pupils

The Abandoned Swimming Pool & Gym Area in Pripyat

In total there were 10 gyms and 3 swimming pools in Pripyat, all used by the residents and their children from the elementary and secondary schools. The swimming pool pictured below, named as Azure Swimming Pool, is one that was still used by liquidators in 1996. Which was a decade after the Chernobyl Disaster. Because of this, it is one of the cleanest areas within the Chernobyl Disaster zone.

Chernobyl Memorials

The memorials have been made in honour of those who lost their lives during the Chernobyl Disaster. In remembrance to the workers of the reactors, the residents of the surrounding homes and all the services involved after to get the whole location under control.

Extra Weirdness In Chernobyl

Ending with the unique items that was spotted in Chernobyl. Such as jars of chemicals and items. As well as a fox that was spotted in one of the areas looking for food. As you can see, it wasn’t just the residents that struggled with the Chernobyl Disaster, but animals too.

Our Other Dark Tourism Locations

Abandoned Ghost Town Doel, Belgium

Vogelsang Nazi Camp at Eifel National Park, Germany

WW1 Battle of Somme, Albert France

Weekend in Ypres: Full Itinerary Seeking The Historic Locations Of WW1

Bodie State Park: A Historic Abandoned Mining Ghost Town in California

Summary Of The 2 Day Chernobyl Tour

As a summary my partner and his friend really enjoyed exploring the Chernobyl Disaster area during the month of June. They had an interesting trip and truly enjoyed their 2 day tour to see the excursion zone. Their tour with the company was also enjoyable as it was with a smaller group. Unlike the larger coaches full of day trip tours. With their smaller group it felt more personal and easier to ask questions to the tour guide. Also to explore more than what you can with a larger group.

One thing I have heard is that they would love to go back at a different time of the year, as all the trees and bushes were overgrown. During Winter everything is more bare allowing you to see all buildings through the empty trees. Rather than objects and buildings hidden completely.

There was also swarms of mosquitos, which makes me glad that I didn’t join! My partner usually has no problems with mosquitos but even this was pretty bad apparently.

As for the tour they were on, it is recommended that you stock up on drinks and snacks for yourselves to take into the zone. Especially if you are on a tour longer than a day. They had the option to stock up at the last shop before the entrance of the radiation zone and they didn’t get much, but since it was pretty warm during their trip they definitely wish they had more water with them. Better to have more than not enough!


  • Plan base on the weather conditions
  • Make sure you take snacks and drinks with you – and stock up if needed at the last store before the tour
  • Wear suitable clothes for exploring

Pin for later:

The Chernobyl Disaster was more than 32 years ago. Here is our photoblog from the visit in June, during a 2 day tour from Kiev. #chernobyl #darktourismThe Chernobyl Disaster was more than 32 years ago. Here is our photoblog from the visit in June, during a 2 day tour from Kiev. 

Have you ever explored the city of Pripyat or the Chernobyl Disaster Zone? Let us know in the comments! 

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  • Reply
    4th May 2019 at 1:28 pm

    I’m not a big fan of dark tourism but I love history- and the history of this place is simply amazing. I’d love to see it for myself someday. Fantastic photos!

    • Reply
      5th May 2019 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks for commenting Elizabeth – Dark tourism definitely isn’t for everyone. My partner sure did take some fantastic photos!

  • Reply
    4th May 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of visiting Chernobyl! A couple of years ago I went to Pyramiden, the abandoned Russian mining town up in the Arctic, and it was such an awesome experience to explore it!

    • Reply
      5th May 2019 at 12:33 pm

      I’d love to go there – we have it on our list for a future visit! Chernobyl was pretty unique to visit and my partner would love to go back in a different season to experience it again.

  • Reply
    4th May 2019 at 2:22 pm

    What an interesting tour. Some chilling images for sure. I grew up in Poland during the time of this disaster and have vivid memories of lining up at the clinic nearby to get the Lugol’s solution.

  • Reply
    Gracia Harrison
    8th May 2019 at 4:13 pm

    Such eerie, chilling photos! Like above comment, I’m not a huge fan of dark tourism either but Chernobyl has always been so intruiging to me! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Reply
    14th May 2019 at 10:32 pm

    What a sad but fascinating place to visit. A destination that requires great sensitivity and respect when visiting. These photos capture it beautifully and are a lovely tribute.

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