I would recommend a day trip to Chernobyl for a truly unique experience. We used Chernobyl – tour who were very professional with guides who were friendly and knowledgeable.
The day tour lasts around 12 hours and takes in the abandoned towns and villages of Zalissya, Chornobyl, Kopachi and Pripyat as well as the Chernobyl Power Plant itself [ChNPP]. There is also a stop at an abandoned Soviet Radar Station [Radar Dugar-1] which was fascinating.
It is an early start, meeting at 7.30 am, and although lunch is included, [you eat in the Chernobyl workers canteen] it’s best to bring snacks and drinks with you. Most of the toilets on the tour are pretty gross, but if you do need to go make sure you have toilet paper with you as that seems to be lacking.
The abandoned village of Zalissya is the first proper stop after the check point into the contaminated zone. The doctors surgery, supermarket and children’s playground are especially eerie.
Radar Duga -1
This radar installation is huge and was used by the Soviets to spy on various things that interested them around the world. Despite its size, it was a well kept secret due to its remote location.
There were two other similar installations but they have been dismantled so this one is truly unique.
The Soviets kept the charade going for years by saying the site was an old summer camp for kids – hence a mock bus stop, decorated to appeal to children, was built to add substance to this fabrication.
There are many empty buildings to explore and some nice grafitti too.
This village is the site of the Kindergarten which was highly contaminated by radiation. It has been cleaned up to safe levels now but you have to stay on the footpath as radiation levels spike either side.
You can see ChNPP and Reactor #4, shrouded in a protective coffin, for some time approaching on the only road that goes in and out of the site. You pass a large cooling pond on the right with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant looming directly ahead.
Suddenly, several hours after setting off, you are actually there, right next to where it all went horribly wrong. It’s a sobering place.
Then off to lunch in the Chernobyl canteen – which is basic, sloppy and filling. You have to go through a radiation checkpoint at the entrance.
The last major stop of the day tour is the infamous and eerie town of Pripyat. In 1986 it had a population of close to 50,000 and was seen as the jewel of Soviet Russia. It was created in 1970 and had a well stocked supermarket, a large hotel, swimming pools and an impressive town square.
There are no individual houses though, just large blocks of flats and lots of them. A few days after the disaster, the authorities realised the severity of the situation, and the population were given two hours notice to evacuate They were bused out to alternative accomodation with instuctions to leave all belongings behind.
You have a good hour or so to wander around the town, it’s quite depressing.
There is also the iconic fairground which is most striking and, like the stadium, it was never used. The grand opening was set for Mayday, but the disaster of April 26th put a stop to that.