Lonely Planet Writer

How Chernobyl plans to become more tourist-friendly

The site of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster is set to officially become a tourist attraction, according to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Firefighters’ monument in the abandoned town of Chernobyl. Image: Luuk de Kok/Shutterstock

After a power plant reactor exploded in 1986 in Chernobyl, or Chornobyl as it is known there, radioactive material drifted across what was then known as the Soviet Union and Western Europe. This exposed millions of people to dangerous levels of radiation and at least 30 people died in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. The neighbouring town of Pripyat needed to be evacuated and remains a ghost town to this day.

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

In the aftermath of the HBO series Chernobyl, which told the story of the disaster, Pripyat has received an increase in visitor numbers, with reports saying 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. The Ukrainian president unveiled the new plans for the disaster site when he inaugurated a huge structure built to confine radioactive debris reactor No. 4, which took nine years to complete.

The ‘New Safe Confinement’ has been installed to prevent the decaying reactor from further contaminating the environment and it will eventually allow its dismantling. The president said that walking trails, waterways and checkpoints will be implemented for visitors, restrictions on filming at the site would be lifted, and there will be enhanced mobile phone reception.

A monument near the New Safe Confinement metal dome encasing the destroyed reactor at Chernobyl.
A monument near the New Safe Confinement metal dome encasing the destroyed reactor at Chernobyl. Image: Sergei Supinisky/AFP/Getty Images

President Zelensky said that the country will also crack down on corruption at the exclusion zone by introducing an electronic ticket system for visitors. “Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine’s brand,” he said. “The time has come to change this. We will create a green corridor for tourists. Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature has been reborn after a huge man-made disaster. We have to show this place to the world: to scientists, ecologists, historians and tourists.”