Abandoned town of Pripyat Chernobyl abandoned amusement park
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Originally published on May 1st, 2017.

Tourism can spring from the most unlikely of places.

Chernobyl — the site of one of the largest nuclear accidents of all time — is establishing itself as a center for “dark tourism.” (Dark tourist sites are places historically associated with death or tragedy.)

Ivy on factory building in abandoned Pripyat city in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Ukraine
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In 1986, a reactor at Chernobyl exploded in one of the worst nuclear disasters of all time. The uncontrollable “fire” raged updrafts for nine days, covering much of the western USSR and northern Europe in nuclear fall-out.

Today, it’s become a day-trip destination for daring and macabre Ukrainian tourists.

Local companies offer trips to the area surrounding the famous plant. Although radiation levels have lowered enough to accommodate short trips, it’s still not safe to live within 18 miles of the plant.

Orthodox church Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Ukraine
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Tourists Chernobyl nuclear power plant
Credit: GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images
obsolete cars playground Pripyat park, Chernobyl
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Day trips to Chernobyl generally leave from Kiev in the morning and return about 12 hours later. The trips include sightseeing in the town of Chernobyl. Although most tourists are still not allowed to enter the power plant itself, it is clearly visible from the road. It’s possible to get a glimpse of the sarcophagus of Reactor No. 4 — but only from about 900 feet away. There’s also a visitors’ center and museum.

Post office in the Chernobyl zone. Prypiat, Ukraine
Credit: Getty Images

Tourists also stop at Prypyat, a nearby town where 50,000 people lived before evacuation. It’s now considered one of the world’s most famous ghost towns.

A Chernobyl day tour starts at $89.