wsls logo

Dark tourism: How to explore Chernobyl

An inside look at what to expect when visiting Chernobyl

Tourists on a guided tour snap photos of one another outside an abandoned shop and apartment building in Pripyat, Ukraine (Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

"Dark tourism" is a term or phrase that is beginning to get used more frequently.

Some people have a fascination with visiting sites that are associated with destruction. It seems more and more people are traveling not just for leisure, but to satisfy their curiosity.

Chernobyl is the latest in a popularity surge in dark tourism, but many have no idea what to expect when visiting this hot spot.

[READ NEXT: 10 horrifying facts about Chernobyl you probably didn't know | No trespassing: 10 places you're not allowed to visitThese are the best times to book holiday travel ]

Here is what to expect when exploring Chernobyl.

Nuclear reactor 4

On April 26, 1986, reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant imploded, sending radioactive material into the atmosphere. The consequences of this tragic disaster have long since been felt, not just in Ukraine, but in neighboring countries with an increase in cancer diagnosis and radiation-linked illnesses and deaths.

Chernobyl and the cities and villages that surround it are still considered dangerous.

A moment in time

Images of Chernobyl's closest city, Prypiat, have haunted the world.

Its crumbling Ferris wheel, abandoned buildings and ghostly hospital are haunting reminders of the disaster. As part of the exclusion zone, this city can only be accessed with an authorized tour guide, correct documentation and mandatory insurance. Those are the only ways visitors can capture the eerie scene.

However, they are warned not to touch buildings or place belongings on the ground in case of contamination.

Chernobyl Power Plant

Some tours offer the explorer a chance to access the Chernobyl Power Plant, where it all began.

Protective clothing is provided as is a dosimeter as people enter the building control room. This tour is typically more expensive than the rest of the tours, but perhaps you'd find it to be worth the cost.

It may shock many to hear that though this is the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, reactor No. 3 was decommissioned in the last decade.

Chat with a local

Despite the exclusion zone, many locals have begun to return to their homes and villages. With no power, they live a basic off-grid lifestyle. Some tours stop at these villages and allow the adventurer to talk to the locals. Visitors can hear how they survived the Chernobyl disaster and the impact it has had on their lives.

Chernobyl is quickly becoming one of the most popular dark tourism destinations.

Planning for this trip before arriving is highly encouraged to ensure guides are available when you visit.

Visitors should prepare to be astounded by the sheer scale of the disaster and see the consequences it had on the people of Ukraine. Safe to say, you wouldn't forget this trip anytime soon.