When I first caught the urbex bug many years ago, an excursion to Pripyat was at the top of my bucket list dreams. Sparse images could be found on the internet from the early urban explorers who first ventured into the exclusion zone. Iconic images, such as the Ferris wheel on the May day fairgrounds, grabbed the attention of the world. When Josh Gates and the Destination Truth crew ventured to Pripyat to investigate paranormal activity in the abandoned city, the dream was etched into my psyche forever. Even today, YouTubers like Exploring With Josh, perpetuate a myth that Pripyat is still the last frontier of urban exploration.
But is the site of the biggest nuclear disaster in history still a meca for the worlds urban explorers? In some sense it is, Dark Tourism attracts over 50,000 visitors a year to the area. Travel to the exclusion zone is easier than ever, you can even book a Room at the Pripyat Hotel (read the reviews at Tripadvisor.ca), and book a reasonably priced tour. An article on Fstoppers by Andy Day described his experience to Chernobyl in 2017 as a “slightly Disney-fied tourist destination”. The idea that it is a preserved time capsule left by its former residents is really one that is carefully managed and curated to capitalize and its grim past. Dolls are carefully placed to accentuate the gloom and gas masks are hung strategically to awe visitors. Getting the perfect shot is often difficult as tourists compete for the perfect position while on guided tours!
images by Andy Day
Is it still my urbex dream to travel to the exclusion zone? No, not anymore. Lining up for guided tours has never been my thing. I still enjoy reading the many blogs out there from early explorers who secretly traveled to Pripyat so many years ago, when it was a true urbex adventure. If your dream is to visit the site to get a sense of the catastrophe that affected so many lives then perhaps it is worth it to travel to the Ukraine and sign up for a tour of Pripyat. However, it will never be the urbex adventure it once was. In the mean time, I can always avoid the lines and grab my VR headset to plug into the Chernobyl VR Project! Share your thoughts?
Want to know what it was like to experience a 32 hour tour in the exclusion zone. Read Darmon Richter's article on the Bohemian Blog.