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Explore the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on an Exclusive Bessarabia Tour

Chernobyl Pripyat
Francescadani/Getty Images

We’re living in strange times. Male rompers are a thing (not really), and Instagram is a driving force behind many a traveler’s bucket list. Some are even paying good money to visit the world’s most impoverished and disaster-hit destinations, just for the ‘gram. Atlas Obscura is adding one more bizarre, yet fascinating tour to the mix — one that guides curious travelers through the nuclear wasteland of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The exclusive Kyiv, Chernobyl, and the Borders of Bessarabia tour is a whirlwind road trip through Ukraine, Transnistria, and Moldova — a region collectively known as Bessarabia. The 11-day journey starts in Kyiv, Ukraine, with a deep dive into the region’s complicated history. Tour-goers hit the ground running on day two with a fully guided excursion inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The bus tour visits the nuclear reactors at the heart of the disaster, plus satellite facilities around the power plant and the newly installed containment structure. Lunch is served in the original Chernobyl workers’ canteen amid working engineers and scientists currently onsite. Travelers eat dinner and overnight in town within the Exclusion Zone.

The following day includes an exploration of Pripyat. Nearly 50,000 workers called the town home before the disaster forced them to evacuate. Today, it’s among the world’s most infamous ghost towns where tour-goers can explore deserted schools, homes, hospitals, and theaters. Beyond the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, the tour also includes key stops throughout the Bessarabia region. The Odessa Catacombs (the largest catacomb system in the world), the Pechersk Lavra monastery, and the home and exotic car garage of former Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych are all on the itinerary.

For decades, the Chernobyl disaster site attracted a particular brand of extreme traveler. Although local “tour guides” (We use that term loosely) were known to accept a bribe or two to take foolhardy visitors inside, the area was, until recently, off-limits. HBO’s Chernobyl miniseries proved to be an unexpected boon for tourism to the region. With it, tourists have flooded social media with smiling, peace-sign selfies taken amid the ruins of one of humanity’s greatest modern disasters. The show’s writer/producer, Craig Mazin, recently took to Twitter to remind travelers, “If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there. Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”

Per-person rates for Atlas Obscura’s Kyiv, Chernobyl, and the Borders of Bessarabia tour start at $4,225 for a shared room, with single rooms available for a fee. The 2019 trip is already sold out, although travelers can place their names on a waitlist.

If creepy, off-the-beaten-path travel is your thing, check out these bizarre guided tours from real-world dungeons to a la carte visits to Chernobyl.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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