Tourism to Chernobyl

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel rumblings

Chernobyl City (Photo by Phil Coomes (c) BBC)

Chernobyl City (Photo by Phil Coomes (c) BBC

Today is the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, then in the Soviet Union and now in Ukraine. CD-Traveller reported (28/12/2010) that there were going to be government sponsored tours. These have been popular but have become even more so in the last month and, surprisingly, it is not just due to the anniversary.

What else can be behind this popularity?

Well the clue is in the time frame. Just over a month ago the earthquake and tsunami hit the east of Japan and subsequently caused the nuclear plants at Fukushima to be shut down. According to Der Spiegel, the German magazine, day trips costing about $100 have been booked out since the Fukushima disaster so much so that the Ukrainian government is thinking of raising the number of people permitted to visit the area from 60,000. Not by 10% or 100% but by over 1,600% to 1 million a year! That alone gives an idea of the level of interest.

Some may find this a little macabre. Each visitor gets a Geiger counter so they can see individually what the radiation levels are like as they go past the silos and abandoned villages. At the canteen they eat lunch to the sound of the whirring Geiger counters. Pripyat was the largest city with 50,000 inhabitants. Now it’s a ghost town yet radiation levels are still 20 times higher than normal. It’s overgrown with weeds and must seem as though it comes from another world. Yet this happened only 25 years ago, probably within the memory of most of our readers. Today the exclusion zone – it’s about the size of Oxfordshire – is still in place and 7,000 people still work there.

When Der Spiegel asked some visitors why they had come, one said that Chernobyl was the ultimate kick.

Does macabre tourism attract you? Would you go to Chernobyl? Or Fukushima if that becomes a tourist destination in the future?

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