Pripyat was meant to be the model Russian city. In 1986 the population numbered about 50,000, it was a modern, pleasant place to live and it was powered by clean, pollution free nuclear power. Sadly, like so many utopias, it all went horribly wrong.

During what was believed to be a routine test at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant on Saturday, 26 April 1986, a power spike caused a series of explosions and forced a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. Perhaps the most horrific thing about the accident is that Pripyat was not evacuated immediately. Instead, the government chose to act as if nothing had happened, and it was a whole day later before evacuation actually began.

Chernobyl and the ghost town Pripyat may seem like strange places to visit, but several Ukranian companies offer tours. I travelled with Solo East, but it doesn’t make much difference who you book with – the guides are all official government staff, so they’ll be the same whichever company you pick to get you there and back. I recommend the two day tour, which also gives you some time with ‘resettlers’ – people who live in nearby villages who refused to leave during the evacuation, or left and returned to their homes as they had nowhere else to go.

It’s a fascinating place to visit and you can’t fail to come back with some amazing photos. The guides are happy to take suggestions on places to go — we asked if we could go and visit an old hospital, and he happily obliged by moving some fencing out of the way so we could drive there. The groups are generally quite small, so it was fairly easy to lose the people I was with and have some alone time traipsing through the decaying city. There’s also a basic, typically Soviet-style hotel there and a worker canteen style restaurant. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s