Chernobyl Will Become An Official Tourist Attraction, Ukraine Says

Tourists have been "unofficially" visiting the site for years, but the HBO miniseries has sparked interest in the site.

ourists stop for pictures at a sign marking the entrance to the abandoned city of Pripyat, inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, on July 2, 2019 in Pripyat, Ukraine
Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Tourists have been "unofficially" visiting the site for years, but the HBO miniseries has sparked interest in the site.

Chernobyl, the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, will soon become an official tourist attraction, the Ukrainian governments says. As CNN reports, the move comes amid renewed interest in the site following the popular HBO miniseries.

For years, the area around the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been an “unofficial” tourist attraction in the former Soviet republic. Despite officially being closed-off to the general public, enterprising tourists have managed to visit the site, either through making their way through mountains of bureaucratic paperwork required to get government approval, or through quasi-legal means that involve paying shady tour operators. Once there, regardless of how they got there, tourists are greeted by two things.

First, they see a city frozen in time: Pripyat, which was once home to as many as 50,000 people, was abandoned overnight, and tourists can see what remains of the city. In some apartments, as The Guardian reports, posters still hang on the walls. Dolls and children’s toys are left atop cabinets that have been left open for 30 years. A nearby theme park sits, decaying.

The second thing they see is what happens when nature is left to its own devices. Once a wasteland following the April 26, 1986 reactor meltdown, nature has reclaimed most of the exclusion zone.

Now, thanks to the interest in the site generated by the HBO series Chernobyl, the Ukranian government wants to make it easier for tourists to visit the site legally.

“Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real ‘ghost town.’ We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists,” said Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Specifically, Zelensky wants to cut back on the amount of paperwork necessary for visitors to legally visit the site, which he hopes will, in turn, make it less likely for visitors to visit the site through illegal or semi-legal channels.

“Unfortunately, the exclusion zone is also a symbol of corruption in Ukraine.These are bribes that security officials collect from tourists, the illegal export of scrap and the use of natural resources. We will stop all this very soon,” he said.

Further, Zelensky hopes that opening up Chernobyl to tourists will help “re-brand” the site, from one associated with corruption, as well as death and misery, to one associated with triumph — specifically, the triumph of nature rebounding in the area despite overwhelming odds against it.