A visit to Chernobyl and Pripyat, Ukraine

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

Visiting history at Chernobyl and Pripyat

At 1:23am on 26th April 1986 a nuclear disaster took place at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station during a systems test.

We had the opportunity, whilst on holiday in Ukraine, to visit Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Pripyat.

With our long trousers, coats and thick boots we were ready to go.  One last thing, our Geiger counter!  Firing them up we check the background radiation in Kiev.  0.15 microsieverts, roughly the same as most cities.  After checking if we “beeped”,  as well as making sure we pass the dress code (covered skin at all times), we jump inside the mini bus for our journey.

It would take us around two hours to reach Dytyatky checkpoint so we sit back, relax and watch a video of the disaster.

The roads are bumpy, in the typical Eastern European way.  Each mile feels like ten in this mini bus.  After a short nap, we reach Dytyatky Checkpoint.  Passports, paperwork and radiation check.  We are OK and pass through. This is the entrance to the 30km exclusion zone.

chernobyl road
Road to Chernobyl

More straight roads surrounded by woodland and we reach the outskirts of Chernobyl.  A quick stop for photographs beside the town sign and we were off again.

chernobyl village sign
Chernobyl Sign

We soon reach a memorial at Chernobyl Fire Station to those who perished at the plant.

fire fighter memorial
Fire Fighter Memorial, Chernobyl Fire Station

This is the moment when the group realise its not a fun day out, people died and we are all still living with the events of the day.

Not soon after leaving the town, we reach the 10km exclusion zone.  Paperwork, passports and radiation check again.  We are quickly processed and on we go.  Next stop is Kopachi, or what is left of it.  Mounds of earth topped with radioactive signs surround us.  Kopachi was demolished and buried.  Each sign marks the site of someones home or business.

radioactive house sign chernobyl

One building which is still standing is Kopachi Kindergarten.  Looking like spooky, horror film set.

Kopachi kindergarten
Kopachi kindergarten
kindergarten, chernobyl
Kopachi kindergarten
kindergarten chernobyl bed
Kopachi kindergarten

Time to go, this area is “hot” and our guide wants us to move on. More straight roads and beautiful countryside, we soon see Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in the distance. The famous chimneys.


Chernobyl Power Station
Chernobyl Power Station

I expect that this is the closest we will get.  Im happy with this.  Just being able to see the real thing is enough for me, so I’m surprised when we keep going, closer and closer.

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

We get this close.

new sarcophagus, Chernobyl Power Station
New sarcophagus, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station

Our dosemeters are beeping.  Its not high, surprisingly.  Hiding behind the statue reduces the reading.  We stay for a short time, no one trusts the radiation.


Pripyat, Ukranian При́п’ять, Pryp’yat’; Russian: При́пять Prip’iat  is our next stop.  The new town was founded on 4th February 1970, to house the workers and families for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The population grew to 49,360 before being evacuated a few days after the 26th April 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

We stop for photographs at the city sign.

pripyat city sign chernobyl
Pripyat city sign

Then continue onto the city itself.

Its all a bit “Clockwork Orange” in design and defintely feels like we are film extras wandering around here.

Main Square

hotel chernobyl pripyat
Hotel Polesie

Trees and bushes poke out of every spare piece of soil  locked in the concrete.

pripyat ukraine chernobyl disaster
housing block
pripyat ukraine chernobyl disaster
remains of communism
culture centre pripyat
Culture Centre

We aren’t allowed inside the buidlings due the state they are in. It would have been good to have a look inside the hotel – any doubles? We head North towards the most iconic areas, the Amusement Park.  Is there anywhere else which sums up this disaster?  The innocence of the ferris wheel.

pripyat ukraine chernobyl disaster

pripyat ukraine chernobyl disaster

pripyat ukraine chernobyl disaster    ferris wheel pripyat

The swimming pool still stands, just.  Crumbling around us, we tiptoe through the rubble, broken tiles and gas masks.

swimming pool, pripyat
Swimming Pool 2013


pripyat swimming pool 1986
Pripyat Swiimmjng Pool 1986 © Darek83 Wikipedia

It was time to leave, but not without finding a little friend. he seemed happy to have the town to himself.

little frog friend pripyat

Our tour bus returned to chernobyl for a late lunch.  Pretty tablecloths and plates filled with goodies covered the tables.  We were assured the food was brought in from outside the exclusion zone.

Clockwise L-R.

Oven cooked fish topped with onions and cheese, Clear soup with meatballs and vegetables, Kovbasa – a selection of meats and Vinigret – salad of beets, carrots and sauerkraut.  Washed down with Kvass (rye bread drink) and water.

lunch food ukraine pripyat chernobyl

This was the freshest, tastiest meal we had on our whole trip.  It was made with a lot of pride and attention to good quality food.  Every time we cleared a plate, another would appear.

A brief wander around the town, with mainly time to see the memorial field which contains signs for each of the villages evacuated within the exclusion zone.  A moment to think if the immediate lives affected by the disaster.

chernobyl ukraine memorial garden


lunch food ukraine pripyat chernobyl
Chernobyl Town, life still goes on

We leave Pripyat and Chernobyl behind and make our way back to Kiev.  Leaving the inhabitants to continue the clear up.




I am Emma and with my husband Mark write Foodie Explorers, which is a food and travel website.

I am a member of the Guild of Food Writers and British Guild of Travel Writers.

We have a wide range of judging experience covering products, hotels and have judged, for example, for Great Taste Awards and Scottish Baker of the Year.

Along the way Mark gained WSET Level 2 in Wine and I have WSET Level 2 in Spirits as well as picking up an award with The Scotsman Food and Drink Awards.    

Usually I can be found sleeping beside a cat.

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