An illegal tour of Chernobyl

At last, our long-held dream of visiting the CEZ (the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) came true.

It all started with a search for a guide – a true Chernobyl stalker.

As it turned out, finding one is not so easy, since nobody wants to deal with strange people, especially if they are coming from another city. So first of all I had to register and take part in conversations on forums dedicated to Chernobyl stalking in order to gain trust in the community.

A month later I finally managed to find someone who volunteered to show us around the Zone.


At one point, we had to ford a river. Luckily, the water was warm, but mosquitoes and gnats were driving us crazy.

driving us crazy

The first sunrise we saw in the Zone. A most striking impression is the complete absence of industrial noise, with only birds and mosquitoes chirping.

first sunrise we saw in the Zone

The second ford. This creek is smaller, but it was harder to get across because of the silt at the bottom. That was the first time we lost some of our belongings: a flashlight and a T-shirt.

The second ford

The first building we saw was a derelict church in a village.

church in a village

This was the place where we spent the night. On our way there, our shoes got soaked and we had to dry everything off.

We found a nice house with a heater and crashed there.


These were our facilities.


We had spent the night, dried everything up and started to pack when we heard a car engine nearby. We hid in the house, quickly packed our stuff, ran a couple hundred yards to a neighboring house and climbed up to the attic. We stayed there until the car headed back, also waiting out the rain.
Then there was a long and extremely difficult march towards the city of Pripyat.

Why was it so difficult? To begin with, we walked during the night with barely any light. Despite the fact that we used automobile roads, these roads hadn’t been well maintained, and there were lots of stones and gravel. Thus, the conditions were very harsh for the feet, especially the soles.

It turned out that our shoes were still a bit wet from the previous day, and our feet were soon covered in sores. Walking on became harder and harder, and the stops had to be longer and more frequent. We were quickly running out of band aids.


When the day broke, it became a bit easier to move forward, probably because our minds were distracted with the surroundings.

Abandoned, half ruined villages, collapsed farms and other buildings were all around. It kept reminding us why we came there and what had happened.


Trees are growing right out of a building.


A road sign.

A road sign

A farm.

A farm

Yet another stop, trying to patch up our feet.

Then we cooked some food and checked with the GPS data if the route we were following was correct. Meanwhile, we waited for the darkness to fall.


The last march was ahead, the last stretch of the way before arriving at the city. A very difficult stretch indeed.

Finally, we saw the first radiation contamination warning sign. It means that there are final storage facilities further in the woods and it’s strongly advised to keep away.


Starting from this point we regularly measured the radiation levels at every rest stop. The levels on the road were more or less normal (+/- 20), but if you stepped only about a meter (3 ft) aside, the device would show something like this:


Then we saw the first automated radiation monitoring system (ARMS).

automated radiation monitoring system

It makes a noise that can be heard from quite a distance. It pumps large amounts of air through itself, thus measuring radiation levels of a large area.

There were moose horns on its gate for some reason.

moose horns on its gate

And here it is! We arrived at our destination. The gates of Pripyat are in front of us.

gates of Pripyat

The checkpoint. There are no city guards.

The checkpoint

On the outskirts, in the woods, many items taken out of the city apartments are buried in the ground together with the trucks that were used to bring them there.



A former garage co-operative of the city dwellers.

garage co-operative

Here’s the first building we saw, right in the middle of the forest.

first building we saw

We were absolutely worn out, so we “checked in” at a stalker apartment to finally get some rest and sleep.

a stalker apartment

A photo taken from the roof of the building.

The buildings are surrounded by the forest. Many of the trees are more than 9 storeys tall.



We waited for it to get dark and headed into the city.

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High school №3

High school №3

A rare object.

A rare object

A kindergarten: a very creepy and depressing place.

A kindergarten: a very creepy and depressing place

The city center. The stadium.

The city center The stadium

The amusement park that was never even put into operation. It was scheduled to open on May 1st, which wasn’t meant to happen.

The amusement park

By the way, it’s a highly contaminated spot, but the official tours still include it in their routes. The levels near the ground, right next to the rides.

highly contaminated spot

The central square.

The central square.

Soviet soda machines.

Soviet soda machines

The medical unit where the first liquidators of the disaster were brought. The highest radiation levels can be found down in the basement where the liquidator’s clothes and gear were thrown.

The entrance to the basement had been blocked, which is a good thing.

We found a fire hood that used to belong to one of those first liquidators. It had been brought here from the basement by some idiot. The contamination level is striking.


After that, we returned to the apartment, spent the night there and realized we didn’t have any strength left and getting back on foot wasn’t even an option.

So we decided to head to the radiation monitoring station to give ourselves in, which we did. Just like that, blatantly and at once.

And what do you think happened then? We walked to the station without anyone stopping us.

We passed through the personnel radiation exposure control point at the entrance.


Then we passed by the staff changing rooms and through the exit exposure control point to the internal use railway station where we were planning to get on a train towards the city of Chernobyl. Only there were we “arrested”.


A bit later, a colonel (himself!) arrived and took us to Chernobyl in his car. There, in a local police station, all the reports were written, our bags were searched and we were taken to the police living quarters for the night, where we had a great time with the policemen in the event hall.


So, this is what our trip was like.


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