While the unfolding nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan grips the world’s attention, thousands of curious tourists are converging on the Ukraine to enjoy unofficial tours of its very own disaster site, Chernobyl.
The nuclear disaster in 1986 in what was then the Soviet Union remains the world’s biggest, rated at 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, compared to the events in Japan which have so far reached level 5.
Since the collapse of communism and the opening up of Ukraine’s tourism industry, Chernobyl has become one of the country’s most famous attractions for anyone daring enough to venture into the still-contaminated nuclear apocalypse.
Tour operators based in the capital city Kiev are offering guided tours for around $200 – $250 per person, taking visitors on a guided tour of Chernobyl’s wastelands and the nearby ghost town of Pripyat. The Chernobyl tour also provides visitors with the chance to get up close and personal with reactor 4’s concrete tomb, which has encased the world’s worst nuclear disaster for almost 25 years.
The safe zone around Chernobyl’s previously inaccessible reactor was opened earlier this year to allow access for anyone interested in learning more about the disaster. Since then, government experts have been working on a route for a so-called ‘official tour’ that is both informative and medically safe.
However, that hasn’t stopped a whole host of unofficial tour operators from descending on the area with bands of eager tourist in tow. Despite the obvious dangers that go with a nuclear disaster zone that is known to still be leaking radioactive material, there are a number of ‘must-see’ destinations inside the old containment zone. As well as reactor 4, and the abandoned city of Pripyat, there is the Krasnoe village, the Yanov train station and the Duga-3 missile defense base, all of which have been standing still in time since the terrible events of 1986.
But why on earth do people take such risks? The dangers are obviously very real. Nevertheless, many seem to think that it’s worth the risk. For example, they didn’t stop Forbes ranking Chernobyl as one of the World’s Most Unique places to visit in 2009.
The next time you are stuck for extreme holiday ideas, how about pushing the boundaries a bit further in the Ukraine?