As you can imagine, Chernobyl is not the perfect tourist destination. There are no four star hotels, no cheap thrill attractions and you are definitely not allowed to take souvenirs with you. But there are still some adventurous thrill chasers that go there every year for the past few years. One of them is Pavlin Delchev that I interviewed for this article. When I asked him about his reason to go there he explained that he wanted to see how a world without humans would look like. And there are many other reasons why some people would want to go there – be it to feel its creepy spirit, to get a one of a kind experience or just from curiosity. I myself have also always wanted to visit Pripyat – the town where the atomic station Chernobyl exploded.
Nowadays, 26 years later Pripyat is supposed to be a ghost town. There is still radiation, almost zero population and it is definitely not the safest place to be. Despite that fact, Pavlin tells me that there are many people visiting ‘the zone’. It is no longer a ghost town but a commercialised tourist destination. There are many organised tours to Chernobyl where they will take you to places that are supposed to be safer and with lower radiation. But you are not alone in an empty town and you cannot go wherever you want to.
But the tour guides must have their ways not to let too many people bump into each other. ‘The feeling is still unbelievable. It is quiet, you see the streets shrinking in front of you. At some places there are still things left exactly as they were two decades ago’, Pavlin says.
Despite all the ruins, Pavlin tells me that nature thrives in Chernobyl. The town has forgotten about its citizens and their previous lives, things, dreams and hopes. Now nature is taking it back. Grass has penetrated the concrete and the wildlife has conquered. Even without people, Pripyat can be one of the liveliest places on Earth.
PLEASE NOTE!!! Please be responsible if you ever do get to visit Chernobyl! And I can’t stress this enough! Remember that this is still a tragic place where you should learn something from. It is there to show us how temporary we are, how fragile our life is and how all our dreams, hopes and stuff can suddenly disappear. It is definitely NOT there for your amusement so if you are not a responsible person with good common sense – please do go elsewhere. And please do NOT paint graffiti in Chernobyl like some so-called ‘artists’ – this is considered great disrespect!
Is it safe to visit?
It is not the safest place but the chance to get contaminated with radiation is probably quite low since you are there for just a few hours and are taken to a particular route that is supposed to be checked. There are still some safety measures you should undertake like walking only on concrete, not taking anything with you, wearing long sleeves and so on. Taking a Geiger counter with you (that measures radioactivity levels) might also be a good idea. However, you must remember that you go on your own risk and contamination is still possible.
How does it feel to visit Chernobyl?
It is still depressing but not as depressing as most people would imagine. According to Pavlin there are a lot of tourists who visit the zone but it is still very quiet and a unique experience. You will be taken trough a particular route and at some places you might see objects that are put by tour guides to create a more dramatic picture. But the town is authentic – left as it was 25 years ago.