Inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone and ghost town of Pripyat

I took a visit inside the Chernobyl 30 kilometre exclusion zone in the winter, then moved on to the ghost town of Pripyat, which was evacuated following the nuclear power station going into meltdown in April 1986.
Click on any image to see it in full size. Video at the bottom of the page.

Geiger counter in Chernobyl

Radiation levels: safe

After passing the military outpost, I entered the “exclusion zone”, 30 kilometres from the reactor core which went into meltdown three decades ago. The first stop was a small settlement; a collection of homes and a shop.
30 years after the accident, my meter now shows radiation levels around normal; safe for habitation.

shop in chernobyl

Open all hours.

A small convenience shop which fell victim to looters once the area was evacuated.

Neighbours attempted to nail their doors closed.

Neighbours attempted to nail their doors closed when they had to leave. This was no match for the looters.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Ripped up floors in every home.

The floors in these homes were all ripped up by looters (and army soldiers) searching for hidden valuables, considering the occupants had to leave in a matter of minutes.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation


This is the entry sign to the small township of Chernobyl, about 14 km away from the nuclear power station.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Paying homage.

A statue created by the firefighters which are still based there today.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Gone but not forgotten.

The statue pays tribute to those who died; not only firefighters.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A radioactive wonderland.

A dead lunar rover sits among its comrades. These were some of the remote-controlled machines used to remove the dangerous debris from the power station.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A harsher environment than the moon itself.

They all malfunctioned under the extreme radiation and rendered useless. These ones were able to be decontaminated as best as possible and placed on display. Obviously, don’t stand next to them.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

A billboard for no one.

A lonely billboard offers its old product to an empty street.

communist stars

Remnants of the past are welded to this security gate.

These are the gates to a once-secret radar facility. Ukraine has had an anti-communist signage law in force for some time, with communist stars and symbols long since removed. This place is an exception, however.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

They’re watching me.

The faded face of a Soviet officer stares at me through the snow.

chernobyl radiation warning sign


Despite the warning, I kept moving towards a large structure I could see through the mist.

radiation meter warning Duga radar

Things are warming up.

As we approached the enormous “Duga radar” I noticed my radiation meter beeping a lot. I took it out of my pocket to see that things were warming up.

Duga radar chernobyl

It’s beyond enormous.

The Duga-1 radar is the largest metal structure I’ve ever seen. It disappears into the snow.

Gavin Shoebridge

Straining to see the top.

It was hard to see the top of the radar due to the sheer size and the snow falling.

Duga radar

The Duga radar is quite massive.

Although it’s not active any more, it’s too radioactive to do anything with it.

duga radar

Left, right, and up: it’s bigger than it looks in the photo.

The “Russian woodpecker” as it was known, disappears into the mist.

duga radar elevator

Elevator to nowhere.

The Duga radar is so enormous it even has its own elevator.

school in chernobyl

No classes today.

I made my way to other abandoned buildings. This one was a small nursery school.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Broken plates and broken dreams.

Despite the radioactivity, looters left their mark on anything and everything.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Out of order.

Anything not bolted down was removed and sold elsewhere in the country. Poverty makes people do desperate things.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Quiet chaos.

Only silence and radiation fill the halls of this building now.

Chernobyl nuclear power station statue

A commemorative statue stands in front of Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The infamous site of the nuclear reactor which went into meltdown.
A statue pays homage to the accident. It’s eerily quiet.

chernobyl nuclear power plant radiation Geiger counter

The site is still very much alive with gamma radiation.

It’s quiet except for my Geiger counter telling me to leave immediately. The reactor core is in front of me, inside the new shell and crumbling sarcophagus.

New Safe Confinement (NSC) at Chernobyl

The New Safe Confinement (NSC) covers the Chernobyl reactor building and core.

This is the new airtight dome which was slid over the crumbling sarcophagus. It’s the largest land-based movable object ever made. It was slid into place in November 2016.

???´???? Pripyat sign

???´???? (Pripyat): the sign as you enter the ghost town.

Above is the entry sign to the town of Pripyat. It was only 16 years old when the clocks stopped.

Pripyat hotel

Pripyat hotel: No vacancy.

No vacancy: the hotel in the main square of Pripyat.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Nobody’s watching.

Walking through the side streets of Pripyat: no power, no water, no human life.

Restaurant pripyat


A local restaurant.
Today’s special: Iodine-131.

Pripyat city, Ukraine

The city is a time capsule.

A time capsule: even the communist crest remains atop of this empty high-rise.

trees nature pripyat chernobyl

Man versus nature.

Steel, brick and concrete is no match for nature.

looting chernobyl pripyat

Last one out; rip out the lights.

Anything and everything was tugged at and ripped out by looters hunting for scrap metal to sell.

bumper cars chernobyl pripyat ghost town

Bumper cars sitting idle.

The iconic bumper cars in Pripyat’s never-opened travelling amusement park.

bumper cars pripyat chernobyl ukraine radiation

Sitting idle for three decades.

No sounds of children laughing. No signs of life at all. It’s so deathly quiet.

radiation meter chernobyl geiger counter pripyat

An invisible enemy surrounds me.

These bumper cars may no longer be active, however they remain highly radioactive.
I can see I’m not welcome in this environment.

pripyat chernobyl nuclear power plant ghost town radiation

Lights out.

Looters even removed light bulbs to sell, despite their dangerous radioactivity. Thousands of radioactive household items appeared for sale across the country by looters, from televisions to toilet seats.

Ferris wheel in Pripyat

The iconic Ferris wheel in Pripyat

There’s no fun to be had at this amusement park.

Chernobyl ferris wheel

A testament to man’s ability to create and destroy.

The weather added a gloomy, surreal element to my visit.

 Pripyat football field and race track.

The Pripyat football field and race track.

The football stadium in front of the field and oval race track.

30 years later: the Pripyat football field.

30 years later: the Pripyat football field.

It’d be a bit hard to play football in this football field today. Nature will always win.

Chernobyl swimming pool

3… 2… 1… nothing.

The iconic swimming pool sits empty in the freezing air.

Pripyat swimming pool

Don’t jump.

Today, only snow fills the bottom of the pool.

empty building chernobyl

Is anyone there?

It was surreal to see apartment blocks all around while knowing that no one was watching me.
Not a single soul.

basketball court Pripyat

The basketball court.

With the windows smashed or taken to sell, the bitter cold envelops the basketball court, causing the wooden floor to rot.


The boulevard of broken dreams.

I spent one day in the exclusion zone which surrounds the nuclear power station of Chernobyl. It was fascinating, surreal and depressing. I’ve been thinking about it for days afterwards. The day has left a lasting impression on me and I’d encourage anyone to see it for themselves.

Here are a selection of interesting video clips from my visit inside the exclusion zone:

Please feel free to share and use these images & the video! I’d love it if you credited me, but it’s not essential.

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