One day in Chernobyl itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in Chernobyl, Ukraine

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is one of the most unique places on the planet Earth. It was subjected to intense contamination with radionuclides as a result of the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, so free access is prohibited. But it is possible to visit it! During the tour, you will visit the plant and inspect the Sarcophagus – a concrete-steel shelter that covers the radioactive masses and debris left after the explosion. You will also get to know the ghost town of Pripyat. All 47,500 residents of this place had to leave their homes the day after the disaster. Didn’t think it was possible to spend one day in Chernobyl? Well, it is now!

One day in Chernobyl Itinerary

What’s the best time to visit Chernobyl, Ukraine?

There is no “best time” to visit Chernobyl – each one is beautiful in its own way. In autumn the leaves are slowly falling and Pripyat looks very sad and lonely. This evokes a feeling of sadness, highlighting the disaster that occurred at Chernobyl, and this is a unique time of the year for photographers.

Pripyat in Fall
Pripyat in Fall, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

During winter, the entire Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is covered with snow, quiet and calm. In spring, nature slowly wakes up and the entire Zone turns into one giant and beautiful natural park to explore. However, in summer, the zone looks like a giant jungle, with everything being overgrown with trees and shrubs.

When it comes to radiation, winter is the safest season to visit the Zone as snow acts as an additional protective layer.  The visibility is perfect, so one can notice objects at a great distance. Plus, there are a lot of wild animals’ tracks in the snow.

A few facts about Chernobyl:

  • Despite the terrible consequences of the Chernobyl accident at the nuclear power plant, the three surviving power units continued to work. They were completely stopped only after many years.
  • An array of trees located two kilometers from the plant was named “Red Forest” after the brown-red color of the trees acquired as a result of the absorption of a high dose of radiation by trees in the first days after the accident.
Red Forest, Chernobyl
Red Forest, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr
  • As a result of the explosion of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, the radioactive release capacity was about 50 million curies. This is equivalent to the explosion of 500 atomic bombs like those that were dropped on Japan.
  • The fire that broke out after the accident at the 4th power unit of the NPP could not be extinguished for two weeks.
  • After the Chernobyl disaster, about 3% of all radioactive and dangerous elements from the damaged power unit entered the atmosphere. The remaining 97% are still hidden under the sarcophagus.
  • Since the residents of Chernobyl and Pripyat were informed about the accident only half a day after it began, many people received large doses of radiation, which they could have avoided if they had evacuated faster.
Chernobyl, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

One day in Chernobyl Itinerary:

Welcome to the adventure of a lifetime! You are about to spend one whole day in Chernobyl, the site of the biggest nuclear accident in history! Don’t worry, though, everything is carefully planned to ensure your health is protected at all times. You will get a unique and fascinating insight into this tragic event, so let’s go over the itinerary to see what to expect.

Start at the Zalissya village

The first stop on your itinerary will be the abandoned Zalissya village. Zalissya is the first stop in the majority of tours because it vividly shows that nature, in the end, claims everything. It is also interesting to see because this is an authentic Ukrainian village of the mid-80s. You can only imagine what it must’ve been like for those people when the accident happened.

Zalissya Village
Zalissya Village, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

Move on to Chernobyl-2

Next, we will visit a huge secret radar Duga-1 and Chernobyl–2, a town that was built for the military and engineers who protected and operated the radar. Usually, the array itself is the main destination for the visitors, although the military town is located just by the antenna and shouldn’t be underestimated: it adds a lot to the understanding of how this huge complex functioned. This a great insight into life during the Soviet Era.

Duga radar, Chernobyl
Duga radar, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

Explore the underground village

Now we are going to visit an almost fully buried underground village of Kopachi and the kindergarten which still stands. This is probably one of the spookiest places that you can see during your one day in Chernobyl tour.

Kopachi Kindergarten
Kopachi Kindergarten, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

First of all, you will see a couple of the hotspots by the kindergarten. The level of radiation that you’ll measure there will be 100 times higher than the average atmospheric level. Don’t worry, it is still safe to be in Kopachi and to approach those hotspots, but don’t step on them or put your belongings.

Chernobyl Hospital
Chernobyl Hospital, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

Visit the power plant itself!

Finally, now comes what you’ve been waiting for! The next stop is the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, one of the most powerful plants in the Soviet Union.

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Monument
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Monument

Here, you will visit the Arch, the NPP cooling pond with giant catfish, the Red Forest, the fire station, and the town of Pripyat. Especially impressive are the Red Forest and Pripyat, and the latter deserves a few lines of its own in this itinerary.

Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Author: IAEA Imagebank, Source: Flickr

It’s always safest and easiest to join a guided organized tour, for example

End this amazing day in Pripyat

The town of Pripyat was a typical Soviet town built to accommodate the workers of the plant and their families. Before the accident, it was developing quite quickly and people of many different nationalities called it home. A large part of the population were children, and the average age was only 27. However, this all changed on April 27, 1986.

Pripyat, Chernobyl
Pripyat, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

Today, it is a ghost town that tells a chilling story, and the remaining Soviet architecture only strengthens the impression you get and the gravity of what happened here. It will definitely leave a mark on you. Nevertheless, it is a perfect way to end your one day in Chernobyl.

Chernobyl, Author: Wendelin Jacober, Source: Flickr

Where to stay in Chernobyl?

To feel the whole atmosphere you can stay in a themed hotel for example in Stalker Hotel & Hostel.

Extra tips for visiting Chernobyl:

  • There are many different radiation zones in Chernobyl that will require you to be accompanied by specialized equipment, as we discussed earlier. Exclusion zones should be checked with an employee from the area.
  • You can take photos and shoot videos in most areas, which is great if you want to document every step of your journey. The only area that is a bit strict is the nuclear power plant, where you can only take pictures from the observation deck. Also, do not capture officers and ask in advance if you are allowed to use drones on this property before launching them into the air. You can also use selfie sticks and take professional pictures in almost any area.
  • It is best to take long-sleeved clothes with you to the zone – your body should be closed as much as possible, especially in the ten-kilometer zone. This will help protect against some radioactive particles. Many people wear a camouflage suit that will help blend in with the trees (you can also take cool atmospheric photos in it).
  • Shoes also need to be closed and comfortable. Abandoned wells and broken glass can be found in the zone, so it is important that the legs are protected. It’s best to also bring gloves with you for the same reasons. In summer, take something on your head to protect yourself from the sun.
Chernobyl Signs
Chernobyl Signs, Author: Jorge Franganillo, Source: Flickr

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip?

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

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