Over the past 5 years, one of the tours I’ve most wanted to experience was a day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl. The reaction on people’s faces when I told them was always shock. Visiting abandoned places is amazing. They are like time capsules that give glimpses into the past. With the recent history between the USA and Russia, the Soviet era has always fascinated me. Having the opportunity to view what life was like during this period was always appealing to me. I knew before I booked my trip to Kiev that I had to find a great company to take me to Pripyat and Chernobyl. After researching many local tour companies, I chose to go with Solo East. My day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl with them could not have been any better. I really saw everything I could have imagined and more.
Solo East makes the day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl as smooth as can be. The booking is easy, and they tell you exactly what you need from the start. Solo East takes care of all permits and requirements. Be sure to follow instructions on what to wear, even in hot weather, as a day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl is not your standard adventure.
The Drive & The Small Stuff
The drive to Chernobyl is about 2 hours from Kiev. I met our guide, Nadia, in Independence Square where I checked in and hopped onto the van. The van is nice and comfortable with lots of seats and storage space. Along the way we stopped at a gas station for snacks and a restroom break. After, we watched a video about the history of Chernobyl to prepare us for our arrival. The drive was comfortable and informative. When we arrived we had a great lunch at the canteen in Chernobyl. Don’t worry, all the food is imported so you’re not eating any radioactive vegetables. There are a few lunch options including a vegan one so everyone can have a great meal.
After entering the Chernobyl exclusion zone, our first stop was the largest village in the zone, Zalissya. Here we saw some of the abandoned homes in the village. Unlike the prototypical Soviet Style blocks in Pripyat, these homes were small houses in a village style. While they’ve significantly deteriorated over the last 30 years, you can imagine what it must have been like when these people left.
Another abandoned town we stopped at was Kopachi. Kopachi was used as a test village after the incident. All the houses were torn down and buried to try and limit the radiation. Unfortunately, the experiment was unsuccessful as burying the homes made the land even more radioactive. There are only a few remnants of the town left and one is the abandoned kindergarten, which we visited. Seeing the abandoned kindergarten was one of the eeriest experiences on the trip.
Unfortunately, during my visit it was quite foggy and difficult to see from farther distances. Normally, the tour gives a beautiful view across the river of all the reactors, including the infamous #4. We were unable to see most reactors due to the fog, however, we were able to make out reactor number 4 and the new cover. In 2017, a one of a kind “sarcophagus” was finished and placed over the reactor. This decreased the radiation outside the reactor significantly. While it was safe even before this, it is now even more so. The structure is magnificent and a true feat of architectural engineering. You stand about 250 Meters from the reactor and also get to see the monument where the reactor makes a great backdrop for a photo.
Many people, like myself, want to see the abandoned city of Pripyat more so than Chernobyl . Pripyat, like many other cities, was built because of the success of the nuclear business in Chernobyl. When the disaster struck, it was home to nearly 50,000 people. Before visiting, I really wasn’t aware just how large the city was. As you are walking through, you really wonder what it would be like today had this tragedy not occurred.
Now abandoned, Pripyat is close to as it was when the inhabitants left in 1986. Of course many buildings are in disrepair, but this only adds to the eerie feeling you get as you walk through the city. Our Solo East guide, Nadia, was great with direction and allowed us to see almost all the sites in Pripyat one could want. We stopped at Lenin Street, the Main Square, the Palace of Culture and the most photographed spot on the tour, the Amusement Park. Many people who research Chernobyl first see shots of this amusement park. It really lives up to the creepiness from the photos, especially the Ferris Wheel. It truly feels like you have stepped onto the set of a horror film.
One of our later stops on the tour may have been my favorite. A visit to the Duga 3 “Russian Woodpecker” radar system. The Duga-3 system was built in 1976 by the Soviets to track potential incoming missiles. However, when it was first built, the sound it emitted led to many conspiracy theories. Some suggested that the Soviets were trying a form of mind-control or weather control techniques. These were eventually debunked, but the legend lives on. I wasn’t expecting much when I first heard about visiting the Duga 3. However, once we arrived it really looked like a structure from a science fiction film. The system is absolutely massive, stands around 150 Meters tall and over 500 Meters wide. It’s shocking to see it up close and oddly beautiful.
I know what you’re thinking, why would a checkpoint be a highlight of a tour? Well, I can’t imagine there are many other tours where you’re tested for radioactive material before leaving. Going through the old radiation detector machines is a pretty cool experience. Additionally, seeing the border guides sweep the automobiles and luggage for radiation is surreal and strangely mesmerizing. This is an experience that won’t be had on other tours. While it’s more or less a formality today since the guides keep you in safe areas, it’s still a unique experience to take part in.
Summary of my Pripyat and Chernobyl Day Trip
Having had high expectations for my day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl, I knew it might be hard to match them. However, Solo East and our guide, Nadia, did just that. With limited time and sunlight, I really feel that we got to see everything that anyone could want to in Chernobyl. From abandoned schools, homes, apartments, police stations to the major sites like the infamous Nuclear reactor and abandoned amusement park in Pripyat. It really feels as if Solo East has mapped out everything perfectly from start to finish. I cannot imagine another tour company planning the day any better. If you’re going to take your own day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl, I highly recommend you go with them.
To book your own day trip to Pripyat and Chernobyl with Solo East, head to their website, TourKiev.Com or use the information below. Solo East offers an array of tour options to Chernobyl as well as a few additional tours to other sites near Kiev.