Lonely Planet Writer

Travellers want to visit Chernobyl for themselves following the hit TV series

The recent HBO/Sky series, Chernobyl, has inspired travellers to want to visit the city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine for themselves.

A still of a firefighter from the HBO series Chernobyl.
HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries is now beckoning viewers towards Pripyat. Image: HBO

The five-episode miniseries centres around the nuclear disaster of April 1986, when a power plant reactor exploded in Chernobyl, or Chornobyl as it is known there, releasing radioactive material that drifted across the Soviet Union and Western Europe. It shows how emergency workers scrambled to contain the damaged core, fearing a second massive explosion if it should come into contact with the water table beneath. Many people risked their lives, and later suffered illness and death as a result.

An abandoned Ferris wheel in an amusement park in Pripyat. Image by ©Hellen Sergeyeva/Shutterstock

The neighbouring town of Pripyat needed to be evacuated and remains a ghost town to this day, but it received circa 70,000 visitors last year. It was built in the 1970s to serve as a dormitory town for workers at the adjacent nuclear complex, and thanks to the lure of the hit TV programme, reports indicate that bookings to the town are now up by as much as 40%. This is probably unsurprising as dark tourism is a growing area of travel.

Dorm of a preschool in Pripyat ghost town, Chernobyl
Dorm of a preschool in Pripyat ghost town, Ukraine. Image: ©tunart/Getty Images

It’s possible to visit and walk through the ruins of Chornobyl as part of an authorised tour into the 30km exclusion zone around the former reactor complex. There are a number of day trips available to the site, and while radiation levels are still higher than normal in Pripyat, tour operators say that they’re safe for short-term visitors. Many visitors to Chornobyl join a day trip, starting from Kyiv, as the exclusion zone is two hours north of Ukraine’s capital city.

An abandoned building following the Chernobyl nuclear explosion of 1986
The Chernobyl nuclear explosion of 1986 in Ukraine leaves behind these reminders of destroyed lives. Image by ©Alex Skelly/Getty Images

There are also multi-day tours, with the option of spending a night in basic accommodation within Chornobyl city, and the prospect of visiting more sites of interest.

You can find out everything you need to know about visiting Chornobyl here.