Dark tourism: Visiting 8 Must-See Places in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Visiting a desolate area and a ghost town is on the bucket list of many travelers and adventures. One particular area that has garnered immense fame in the past few years is the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Soon after the release of the HBO Max hit miniseries, Chernobyl, many of us scampered to the internet to find a way to visit the place. Believe it or not, there are actual guided tours that take you to the place and show you the entire area including the ghost town of Pripyat.

Seeing the place in real life evokes uncanny feelings of existential angst. Let’s take a look at the rules you need to follow and the things you must consider when visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone, as well as the must-see places you should visit.

Is the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Safe to Visit?

Chernobyl safety

One question that might be going around in your mind is if it is safe to visit the Chernobyl exclusion zone. And the answer is, yes. Chernobyl is safe to visit now and has very low radiation levels about the amount of those emitted on a trans-Atlantic flight.

The place however has some strict restrictions in place to keep the tourists safe. Upon entering and leaving the exclusion zone you will be scanned to check the radiation levels. If upon checking the reading comes back higher than recommended, you will be asked to leave behind an item of clothing in the zone.

Visiting Rules

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Rules

Following are the visiting rules you must follow when you are in the Chernobyl exclusion zone for the sake of your safety and those around you:

  • Only those at and above the age of 18 can visit the exclusion zone as the laws of Ukraine prohibit the admittance of individuals below 18.
  • You must carry your passport with you. Mandatory passport control is carried out at the entrance of the Chernobyl exclusion zone and if you don’t have your passport with you, you will not be allowed entry.
  • When visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone you must be dressed in clothing that covers all parts of your body so that radionuclides cannot come in contact with the open areas of your body. It is compulsory to wear long tight pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and comfortable shoes with thick soles. Skirts, dresses, shorts, sandals, slippers, and high-heeled shoes are forbidden.
  • You can neither carry alcohol and drugs with you, nor you will be allowed in the Chernobyl exclusion zone in a state of intoxication.
  • You are forbidden from bringing any explosives, dangerous objects, and weapons into the exclusion zone.
  • Gathering and using water from the open sources in the exclusion zone is forbidden because of the radiation pollution of water. You are however allowed to carry bottled water.
  • You cannot eat food inside the exclusion zone, and neither can you smoke due to the risk of radioactive particles entering the body.
  • You can neither put your personal belongings on the ground nor on the surface of any building as there might be some lingering radionuclides on it. Moreover, you can neither touch the plants, objects, and surfaces in the exclusion zone nor can you sit on them.
  • You are forbidden from taking anything from the Chernobyl exclusion zone as the objects there are potentially radioactive.
  • The exclusion zone can only be visited with a guide, illegal entry will entail administrative and criminal liability.
  • You can neither deviate from the safe routes nor can you ignore the guidance of the guide. As deviating from the safe routes can not only put you in danger of radiation contamination but can also result in injury and wildlife hazards.

Keep in mind that these rules are set in place to keep you safe, and it would be in your best interest to follow them as radiation and nuclear energy are not something to be toyed with and the disaster of Chernobyl proved it.

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – Must-See Sites

Chernobyl must-see sites

“As your eyes witness the desolation of the ghost town, what will stay with you forever is not the eerie scenery but the prevailing sense of stillness and sadness”

37 years ago, the disaster of Chernobyl changed history, it changed lives and science and left an everlasting mark on the world. Chernobyl is a tale of caution, an environmental case study, a tragedy that shattered families and lives, and a peek into the now-lost Soviet way of life. Leaving behind nothing but the remains of life that once lived there, the Chernobyl exclusion zone is now welcoming tourists to witness the consequences of human neglect, error, and corrupt practices. Given below are the places that you must visit when touring the Chernobyl exclusion zone:

  • Amusement park
  • Duga radar system
  • Palace of Culture
  • Pripyat
  • Reactor Number 4
  • Red Forest
  • Middle school number 3
  • The hospital

1. Amusement Park

Amusement park

The amusement park and its towering Ferris wheel, located in the center of Pripyat constitute the most iconic symbols of the Chernobyl disaster. The amusement park is among the most affected landmarks in Pripyat. Local families didn’t even have a chance to visit the place as it was due to open for May 1 celebrations. However, a week before that the Chernobyl tragedy turned the Pripyat upside down. You will be allowed to look around the area however you must do so with care as some of the most contaminated areas in Pripyat are found here.

2. Duga Radar System

Duga Radar System

Duga radar system also known as the Russian Woodpecker was part of the Soviet anti-missile network. This extremely powerful and massive structure was decommissioned after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Many organised Chernobyl tours take tourists to see the massive structure which although is in a state of industrial decay but one can’t help but gasp at its sheer scale.

3. Palace of Culture

Palace of Culture

The Palace of Culture is a must-see site when visiting the Chernobyl exclusion zone. It was effectively a community center consisting of a theatre, swimming pool, cinema, gym, dance halls, library, and a shooting range. It was a major hub for reaction and the young residents of Pripyat used to frequent the discos there. Now, just like everything else in the ghost town, the Palace of Culture is nothing more than a tumbledown relic that is filled with discarded and broken furniture.

4. Pripyat


Pripyat was regarded as a Soviet ‘model city’ in the past and was built for the workers at the nearby Chernobyl power plant. Following the explosion of the reactor, the residents of Pripyat were evacuated after 36 hours. During that time, they had no idea about the intensity of the situation and went on with their lives oblivious to the fact that death was knocking at their doors. The delay was caused by the government’s inclination to secrecy. Today Pripyat paints a sorrowful picture of a living museum, as the residents were forced to leave most of their personal belongings behind.

5. Reactor Number 4

Reactor 4

On the fateful day of April 26th, 1986, reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded as a result of a safety test that went terribly sideways. The tragic incident and the urgent evacuation became one of the most controversial events of the 20th century. Now the reactor is protected by a massive steel structure. When you visit the site you will be told about the immense containment efforts that were and still are involved.

6. Red Forest

Red Forest

Red Forest is located downwind of the Chornobyl plant and received a significant dose of radioactive fallout. As a result of the radiation much of the vegetation died and turned a rusty color, hence the name Red Forest. You can’t enter the forest as it isn’t safe, but you can observe it from afar.

7. Middle School Number 3

Middle School number 3

One of the most eerie remains in the abandoned ghost town of Pripyat is that of middle school number 3. The school is infamous for its collection of gas masks that are strewn across the floors of classrooms. Visiting this place evokes a feeling of unrelentless dread and makes one uncomfortable to the core.

8. The Hospital


The large hospital building of Pripyat and its equipment remain intact to this very day. In the Chernobyl exclusion zone, the basement of the hospital is the most radioactive place of all. It was here that the first respondents were given medical aid on the night of the explosion. Their radioactive contaminated clothing was thrown into the basement and then covered with sand. The traces of the radiation still remain to this very day.

Tour Guide

If you want to visit this post-apocalyptic place then you can book your trip with Adventure Tours in Ukraine. They offer full day private, group, and helicopter tours of the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Visiting the 10 Most Eerie Places in the World: A Dark Tourist’s Bucket List

Want to visit more eerie places around the world? Check out our article on the 10 most eerie places in the world to find out what our mysterious world has in store for you .

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