The Best Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

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Note: Because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I don’t currently recommend traveling to this destination. I stand with Ukraine.

Greeting Internet Stranger! Some of my gentle readers may be confused that I’m recommending a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip. After all, isn’t it Chernobyl a ghost town after the devastating nuclear accident in the 1980s that left so many people dead and disfigured? Why would we want to go on a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip? And if we want to learn more about Chernobyl, can’t we just watch that series on HBO starring the British guy from Mad Men and the mean Scandinavian from Good Will Hunting?

Now I’m not knocking HBO. After all, it’s not TV. But there’s something to be said for visiting historically important attractions yourself. And we’ll be taking a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip. So you’ll be supporting the burgeoning Ukrainian tourist industry, which you can’t do while watching a miniseries on your couch. Still not convinced? After reading this itinerary, I hope you will be.

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

Where to Stay?

The best place to spend the night after the Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip is in Kyiv. As a solo traveler, when I visit an unfamiliar city, I choose a hotel with a friendly staff that will help me if any unexpected problems come up.

That’s why I recommend Sunflower B&B for your time in Kyiv. The rooms are comfortable and affordable, and the hotel is in a good safe location. But more importantly, the staff was so helpful getting me to the airport when I had a fairly early flight. They arranged for the taxi, and they fixed a breakfast “to go” for me for no extra charge. I’m sure you’ll have a good time here too!

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on other hotels in Kyiv, click here.

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

What to Pack

The weather in Ukraine can be rainy. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Ukraine.

The Best Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip 1

For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.

The Best Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip 2

Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or UK plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

Morning and Afternoon: Explore Chernobyl

There’s a lot of security at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, as you can imagine. Even though there’s no danger in going on a tour, there’s still too much radioactivity in the ground to allow people to just wander through unattended. That’s one reason you need to have identification to go through the security checkpoint. For this reason, among others, I strongly recommend going to Chernobyl on a guided tour.

I visited Ukraine as part of a fascinating multi-day trip with Intrepid Travel. Our Intrepid guide arranged the tour with an energetic local guide. She picked us up at our hotel that morning, got us through security, and told us everything we needed to know during our Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip. But if you don’t take the Intrepid Travel tour, which I strongly recommend, there are plenty of companies that do day trips to Chernobyl.

I want to leave some surprises for you when you take your Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip, but I’m happy to pique your interest with…

approximately top 5: Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip
1) security measures

Some people might be frightened about visiting the sight of a nuclear disaster. In fact, one member of our tour group refused to spend 24 hours in Chernobyl because he was too afraid of radiation. (He was also, no joke, 89 years old which made the rest of us wonder how much longer he thought he was going to live if he didn’t visit Chernobyl.)

You do need to take some precautions before visiting Chernobyl. You have to wear closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, and cover your legs. I don’t own pants, but I covered my legs with tights and that was just fine. Our guide constantly monitored the radiation levels with a little yellow device she kept in her pocket. (I don’t think she was really concerned about the radiation, but it was interesting to watch her take the measurements.)

You also have to go through several security checkpoints in Chernobyl where your radiation levels are tested. Nobody in our group had any elevated radiation levels. So I genuinely don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about. I mean, unless you’re an 89 year old who thinks you’re going to live forever. (Spoiler alert! You won’t!)

Lenin statue chernobyl
2) statues

Since Chernobyl is a memorial, there are many interesting statues here. The statue of Lenin is of particular historical interest because it’s the maybe the only statue of Lenin left standing in Ukraine. For many reasons, neither Russians nor Communists are especially popular in Ukraine. But this Lenin is left standing in order to preserve Chernobyl as it was after the explosion.

angel of chernobyl

My favorite statue in Chernobyl is this striking “Angel of Chernobyl” dedicated to those who were killed in the nuclear disaster. Our guide said that the word Chernobyl in Ukrainian means wormwood. There’s also a passage in the Bible that says, “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

Because of this passage, some people thought that the Bible foretold the Chernobyl disaster. Who knows if that’s true? But I certainly hope the angel in the statue isn’t the angel from the Bible because that angel poisoned everybody. I prefer the nice angels who have halos and sit on my shoulder telling me not to eat an entire pint of ice cream, no matter how angry I’m feeling.

Chernobyl schoolhouse
3) abandoned buildings

During your Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip, you’ll see more abandoned buildings than you can shake a stick at. Some of them, like this former schoolhouse in Chernobyl, are especially creepy because of all the lonely dolls posed around the rooms. Anna told us that these are not actually dolls left by former students. Tourists apparently like to set up tableaux to make these already eerie buildings look even eerier.

chernobyl doll

I’m really not sure I’m okay with that. I’m all for finding humor even in the darkest situations because it can be one of the only things that makes this vale of tears bearable. But perhaps the two most terrifying things in this world are nuclear disasters and creepy dolls, so I don’t think there’s any need to combine the two.

4) pripyat

Pripyat is the largest abandoned town you’ll explore in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. It used to be a thriving Soviet city. Anna showed us photos of what Pripyat looked like before the nuclear accident, and it had everything its citizens could need for work and for pleasure.

restaurant pripyat ukraine chernobyl

There were restaurants…

pripyat ukraine chernobyl


pripyat ukraine chernobyl

Gymnasiums with swimming pools. (The Soviets were very into sports. I always thought it was just figure skating and gymnastics, but apparently athletics of all kinds were encouraged in the USSR.)

pripyat ukraine chernobyl ferris wheel

And of course we have the most famous place you’ll see in your 24 hours in Chernobyl: the Ferris wheel. It really is one of the eeriest things I’ve ever seen in person. I can understand why people think the Ferris wheel is haunted because the wind does make it move slightly even though no one in the Ferris wheel. (Please don’t get on the Ferris wheel. I don’t care how good the photo would like. Your Instagram account isn’t worth it!)

There is something ghoulish about publishing all of these photos of destruction and devastation. But I think it’s important for tragedies like Chernobyl not to be forgotten. If we don’t remember that things like this happened, how can we avoid them in the future?

nuclear reactors chernobyl
5) nuclear reactors

Here we have the first glimpse of the nuclear reactors that caused this tragedy. Anna told us that there were four different reactors in Chernobyl. It was the 4th reactor that exploded. Because the Soviet government didn’t want people to know about the disaster, they neglected to tell the people of the neighboring town of Pripyat about the danger. Some people in Pripyat died of radiation poisoning before they were finally evacuated. 

firefighter memorial chernobyl

Other victims of the Chernobyl disaster who shouldn’t be forgotten are the firefighters who initially arrived to rescue the workers. This monument above is dedicated to them. The firefighters were not warned of the danger, and many of them died of radiation poisoning. Anna told us that the firefighters were exposed to so much radiation that they became toxic themselves. It was actually dangerous to touch their bodies. Their bodies had to be sent to Moscow so they could be buried in a special way to protect others from contamination.

The Soviet government was also criticized for not properly warning their European neighbors about the risk of nuclear contamination. However, once the dangers were known, many other countries came to the aid of the USSR to contain the toxic nuclear waste. The entire malfunctioning reactor was covered with a special protective sarcophagus to avoid further contamination. So, as I said, you don’t have to worry about radiation on your Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip.

chernobyl canteen
6) lunch at the chernobyl canteen

What would say if I told you we were going to eat a four course lunch in Chernobyl? “Blugh?” “NO! WHY?” “Thanks, but I’d rather not have all my internal organs melt off?” But there’s actually nothing to worry about. There are many locals who work in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and they all have to eat. So ingredients for their food are brought to the Chernobyl canteen every day. It’s all perfectly safe.

chernobyl canteen

Our lunch started with a light vegetable soup, hearty bread, and a tomato salad. Once you convince yourself that these vegetables weren’t actually grown in Chernobyl they’re quite tasty.

chernobyl canteen

Then there’s a filling chicken and potatoes for your main course. This is one time I’d have liked to see the chicken’s head just to make sure it didn’t have three eyes or something. But it tasted quite good. Certainly it was much fresher than the cafeteria food at my last job, and I don’t even live in an Exclusion Zone.

chernobyl canteen

And look! There’s even a Ukrainian sweet bun for dessert. I got through the entire meal without any negative effects. Well, except for the third eye I grew, but I just cleverly conceal that with my bangs.

anti missile system chernobyl
7) top secret!

The last stop in the Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip was definitely the coolest. It’s a top secret military radar left over from the USSR. Its official name was the Duga 3, but its much cooler nickname was “The Russian Woodpecker”. Nowadays, of course, it’s completely not in use. I mean, unless the USA and Ukraine go to war, but that would never happen. The relationship between our two countries is so calm and peaceful, why it never makes the news anymore!

It was a bit exciting to see this place that would have been off-limits to anyone only a few decades ago. If I’d come here in the 1980s, I’m sure I’d have been captured for espionage. I spent a few minutes slinking about pretending I was a lady spy, but the only lady spy I could think of is Natasha Fatale, and she’s a Soviet. So why would she be spying on herself? Same goes for Keri Russell on The Americans. Why can’t I name any cool female American Cold War spies? Someone needs to make a TV show about that right away.

taras bulba kiev

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

Evening: Dinner at Taras Bulba

The Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip marked my group’s last night on the tour, so we wanted to go out for a traditional Ukrainian meal. Our guide suggested Taras Bulba, which is named after a character in  a novel about a Ukrainian Cossack. If you want to know what he looks like, check out the picture on my beer mug above.

(There are several film versions of Taras Bulba, including an American film starring Russian-American Yul Brynner. One film version was playing in the background the entire time we were in the restaurant.)

pike caviar taras bulba kiev

I knew I wanted a heavy main course, so I opted for a light appetizer of pike caviar. It was quite tasty, but I was confused by the two tiny pieces of bread that came with it. Was this really supposed to help me eat this entire bowl of caviar? There’s no way half that bowl of caviar was going to fit on each piece.

chicken kiev

24 hour treat: chicken kyiv

There was no way I was going to leave Kyiv without eating chicken Kyiv. This is one of the most indulgent dishes man has ever devised: a chicken cutlet wrapped around a whole bunch of butter, battered, then fried. Yes, I said it’s fried chicken with a butter center. Deal with it. And please don’t let my primary care physician about this blog.

Nobody knows exactly where chicken Kyiv comes from, and it’s certainly not traditionally Ukrainian. But it was apparently the most famous dish at the glamorous Continental Hotel in Kyiv back at the turn of the 20th century. However, even if the dish isn’t originally from Ukraine, the restaurants of Kyiv have embraced its fame, so you can find it all over the city. And as the saying goes, when in Kyiv, eat a lot of butter-stuffed fried chicken.

24 hour tip

Do not eat any food at Taras Bulba that is left on display. One lady from my group bit into a bun that was left out on a table, and it was entirely full of mold and the waitress got upset. I’m really just telling this story because I was so glad that someone did something embarrassing and it wasn’t me. Quite frankly, it’s usually me.

Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

That’s a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip

What would you do on a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip? Is that 89 year old man who wouldn’t visit Chernobyl still alive? And would the greatest lady American superspy in history wear this ridiculous flower hat? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY do a Chernobyl Tour Kyiv Day Trip. If you have another 24 hours in Kyiv, try this itinerary. And if you have time for even one more day in Kyiv, enjoy this one!

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