Spend an exciting long weekend like no other – exploring the incredible abandoned sites reclaimed by nature on a Chernobyl tour in the Exclusion Zone, which was created when the Number 4 reactor exploded back in 1986.
Chernobyl tour – Discover the ghost town of Pripyat, the Red Forest, and the ‘New Safe Confinement’ structure around Reactor 4
Kiev – Walking tour of the city’s highlights including Mother Motherland and the Chernobyl Museum
Lavra Reserve – Explore this ornately decorated monastic complex best known for its expansive catacombs.
DAY 1 – Join trip in Kiev
Our exciting and unique long weekend begins in Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev. After checking in to our hotel and meeting the group, along with our local guide, this evening is at leisure for you to enjoy your first taste of the city’s nightlife.
On this long weekend we have packed in as many highlights of Kiev as we can, but there is very little free time in the city, so if you wish to spend some time discovering more on your own then we would recommend extending your stay for a night or two. If you choose to do this then we’d suggest visiting the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is one of the largest in Ukraine and tells the story of the German-Soviet War in iconic and Brutalist style. It has over 300,000 items on display and the memorials here are spread over 25 acres.
Please note that many of Kiev’s museums are closed on a Monday/Tuesday, so if you wish to visit a particular attraction then please check that it is open on the day you are want to visit on.
DAY 2 – Kiev walking tour, Chernobyl Museum and the Lavra Reserve
We have a busy day today, as we aim to explore a selection of Kievs many historic sights and to get a feel for this great city. We’ll start with a guided walking tour of Kiev, which is situated on the banks of the River Dnipro. This ancient city has been inhabited for almost 2000 years and it was once the capital of the Kievan Rus State, from which all later Russian states were descended. Although Ukrainian nationalism is stronger than ever, you will still hear Russian spoken here today. During our tour we’ll see the onion domed exterior of Santa Sophia Cathedral, the Golden Gate which was once the main entrance to the city, Saint Andrews Baroque church and Mother Motherland, a 100 metre high statue to honour the heroes of the Soviet Union. We also visit the Chernobyl Museum. Exhibits are designed to teach us of the scope of the nuclear disaster and to ensure that the lessons learnt from this terrible accident aren’t forgotten.
This afternoon we take the metro to Arsenalna, which is the deepest station in the world. We continue by metro to the Lavra Historical and Cultural Reserve and visit the remarkable ‘Monastery of the Caves’ founded in AD 1051, where the labyrinths provide all the natural conditions needed for mummification. We have a guided tour of the caves and have time in either the Museum of Miniatures or the Museum Of Historical Treasures and the Holy Trinity Church.
The evening is free to relax and have dinner.
Please note that on our 27 May 2019 departure that we’ll be visiting Chernobyl on days two and three and taking our tour of Kiev on day four. All itinerary inclusions are the same. In Chernobyl we’ll be staying at the Polissya Hotel.
DAY 3 – Guided tour in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
This morning we set off on our exciting explorations to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which is about two hours’ drive from the city and close to the Belarusian border. Back on the 26th April 1986 the Number 4 nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded with catastrophic consequences. Since then an Exclusion Zone has been in place around the plant and nature has reclaimed the towns and vehicles left within this. The accident was the result of a flawed Soviet reactor, operated by inadequately trained staff that had been ordered to carry out a poorly planned test.
There were four reactors and a further two being constructed when Reactor 4 exploded twice, killing two workers and releasing at least 5% of its radioactive core into the atmosphere. A further 28 fire fighters died of radiation poisoning following the accident. At the time this was the largest uncontrolled radioactive release recorded.
The city of Pripyat was built three kilometres from the site to house the plant’s workers and their families and, at the time, it had 49,000 inhabitants. Within a 30 kilometre radius of the power plant, there was a population of up to 135,000 people. All were evacuated after the accident and most of these towns and villages including Pripyat are now ghost towns.
Surprisingly after the accident the other reactors at Chernobyl were restarted. Their safety was improved but due to energy shortages the last reactor wasn’t turned off until December 2000. In 2011 Chernobyl was declared safe enough to be recognised as a tourist attraction.
Reactor 4 was enclosed in a large concrete shelter which was erected quickly after the incident and contained around 200 tonnes of highly radioactive material. The old shelter only had a shelf life of 30 years and at the end of 2016 a huge ‘New Safe Confinement’ structure was built on the site and moved into place over the old shelter. It is the world’s largest movable structure and inside a team of robotic cranes is taking the old shelter and radioactive core apart in an effort to make the area safe again.
On our first day of discovery with a local guide we will explore Pripyat including the fairground, hospital, hotel, bus station, fire station, football stadium, sports centre, elementary school, kindergarten, police station, Palace of Culture, church and the ‘bridge of death’. We’ll also see the Red Forest and the structure around Reactor 4. The attractions seen in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone may vary depending on local conditions and restrictions, but we’ll see the most possible during our two days spent here.
This evening we will have the unique experience of staying within the Exclusion Zone in a small hotel within the town of Chernobyl. The bedrooms are simply decorated and there are three bathrooms shared between every five bedrooms. There is a restaurant and bar where we will enjoy a traditional Ukrainian meal this evening.
Please note that it is essential that you provide us with the correct passport information at the time of booking and that you check this is accurate on your booking confirmation/the online customer information gateway, as this will be required in order to request the permissions needed to enter the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Corrections and amendments may incur additional charges at your own expense or result in you being denied entrance to the Exclusion Zone. If you intend to renew your passport please let us know at the point of booking and ensure that you have your new passport no later than 10 weeks prior to travel. In order to be permitted to enter the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and to travel on this holiday you must be at least 18 years old.
DAY 4 – Further explorations of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Today we will most likely see Pripyat’s swimming pool, grammar school and music school and visit the secret Soviet Duga Radar Facility. The radar military base was named Chernobyl 2 and didn’t appear on any civilian maps and the trees were strategically planted to block the view from the neighbouring towns. There are two radars here that were constructed as part of a Soviet early missile detection system. The bigger of the two is almost 500 metres long and around 150 metres high. Also on the site are an abandoned fire station, small power plant, hospital and apartment buildings where the military personnel stationed here and their families would have lived.
We will also hopefully get the chance today to speak with people still living within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, who are known as self-settlers. A year after the accident over one thousand people returned to their homes and despite efforts from the authorities they kept returning until eventually being allowed to stay and they have been living off grid ever since. Many of the people who choose to return were retired at the time and since it has been over 30 years since the disaster many of these people have sadly now passed away, so many of the towns and villages in the Exclusion Zone now only have one or two people living there. We should be able to meet with a couple of the self-settlers to hear their stories of what their lives were like before, during and after the explosion.
Late this afternoon we drive back to Kiev for our final free evening in the city.
DAY 5 – Trip ends in Kiev
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Kiev.
Budgeting and packing
July and August are the hottest months and lightweight cotton clothing is best. During spring and autumn temperatures can be lower or drop during the evenings and there is also a stronger possibility of rain, so pack layers. Rainwear may be needed at any time of year. A warm fleece/jacket is recommended for cooler evenings. During winter you should be prepared for snow and very cold temperatures, so it’s advisable to dress in warm layers of breathable fabrics. You’ll need waterproofs and plenty of warm clothing including a warm waterproof jacket (such as a ski jacket), jumper, fleece, gaiters or ski trousers, thick socks (including spare pairs in case your feet get wet) and thermal underwear.
All visitors to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone must wear full length trousers (not shorts or skirts) and long-sleeve shirts/jackets and please avoid clothing with lots of zips or metal poppers. It’s advisable to wash your clothes and to shower after your visit. We also recommend that you take old clothes that can be easily washed or even thrown away if necessary and a plastic bag to keep them separate from the rest of your clothing following the visit. Upon leaving the Exclusion Zone you will go through a monitor to check the radiation level on you, occasionally this reading may come back too high, and in which case, you may have to leave an item of clothing behind, as you won’t be able to take anything that gives too higher reading outside of the zone.
Women should bring a headscarf for religious site visits.
We recommend taking comfortable walking shoes for exploring and trainers or sandals for relaxing. If travelling in winter then your walking shoes/boots should have sufficient grip for icy conditions and be waterproof in case of snow. You may wish to bring a spare pair in case your feet get wet and your boots don’t dry out overnight. You may find taking some over shoe ice grips or crampons and walking poles to be useful in case of icy conditions.
In the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone you must wear closed toed shoes (not sandals or flip flops). We recommend using older shoes that can be easily washed or thrown away if necessary. In the Exclusion Zone there is often broken glass on the floor, so it is important to have shoes with sturdy tread.
You may also want to bring a pair of slippers for your stay at the Chernobyl Hotel for going to and from the bathroom at night.
Luggage: On tour
One main piece of baggage and a day pack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don’t overload yourself.
We advise taking a water bottle for our included walks, sun glasses, sunscreen and a sun hat are all essential. An umbrella may also be useful at anytime of year and gloves, a woolly hat and scarf if you are travelling in autumn or winter.
Whilst in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone we recommend carrying wet wipes, hand sanitiser, toilet roll and mosquito spray. We would also recommend buying any bottled water required before entering the Exclusion Zone. Please remember that you must keep your passport with you at all times, so you may find keeping it in a sealed plastic bag useful. For the overnight stay in Chernobyl it is best to take a small overnight bag with you and to leave your main bag padlocked in the luggage storage facility at our hotel in Kiev.
At Chernobyl there are great photographic opportunities – so it’s highly recommended to bring your camera and good zoom lense if you have one. You can also get some wonderful video footage, so something like a Go Pro can be very useful. Large memory cards for these devices are advisable and tripods are fine to use within the Exclusion Zone. If you’re travelling in winter then you may find glove liners helpful for when you take gloves off to take photos as yours hands can get very cold very quickly. Also in winter spare camera batteries are advisable, as they tend to run out of life quicker in the cold.
At the Chernobyl hotel the doors will be locked at around 10.30pm and we are not permitted to venture out into the Exclusion Zone without our guide being with us at all times. The television service here includes no English speaking channels, so you might like to bring a tablet computer, electronic reading device, MP3 player or pack of playing cards with you for evening entertainment. It’s also advisable to bring any drinks or snacks you want with you from Kiev. There is a bar at the hotel in Chernobyl but it shuts at about 10pm.
During autumn and winter especially, the evenings can be cold and the heating at the hotel in Chernobyl is limited, so we’d recommend bringing warm nightwear and perhaps a blanket and hot water bottle.
In case of emergency we also recommend that you carry a torch with spare batteries and sufficient medical supplies including a first aid kit and several days extra supply of any specific prescription medications that you require.
In order to make things easier for you, the Explore Leaders may organise a group’s tips kitty and if this is the case, they will account for it throughout the trip.
Transport, Accommodation & Meals
We spend one night within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone at a simple hotel with two bathrooms shared between every five bedrooms. Bathrooms are equipped with a sink, shower and toilet. Bedrooms are simply decorated. The food served here will be traditional Ukrainian cuisine and there is a bar within the restaurant. In the evening the doors of the hotel will be locked at around 22.30 and we are not permitted to venture out into the Exclusion Zone without our guide being with us at all times. The television service here includes no English speaking channels, so you might like to bring a tablet computer, electronic reading device, MP3 player or pack of playing cards with you for evening entertainment.
Packages include flights and all elements as listed. To tailor your trip and receive a customised quotation, mail the team today firstname.lastname@example.org