Would you be willing to pay £100 a day to visit a site where radiation levels are thought to be around 35 times higher than normal? Well, that’s what around 7500 people did in 2009, according to the Daily Mail. The worst nuclear disaster in history took place on April 26 1986, when an explosion occurred at the Soviet-era nuclear reactor in Chernobyl, causing the evacuation of fifty thousand residents.
Almost 25 years on, tourists are booking up to visit the area, 60 miles from the Ukrainian capital Kiev, that US magazine Forbes described as one of the ‘world's unique places to visit’. Motivations vary, but generally those who sign up consider it to be an important part of our history. ‘It's no different from the Coliseum, where people died... or from Auschwitz’, said one tourist.
The ‘tour’ involves a photo session at the notorious reactor, followed by a trip to the abandoned city of Pripyat, two miles from the nuclear plant, where its staff lived. Books and toys lie scattered on the ground, along with hundreds of gas masks. One tourist admitted to finding it a little scary, whilst another felt uncomfortable with the voyeuristic element.
Nonetheless, as hard as it is to imagine, Chernobyl, with a death toll of at least 4000 people, has become a tourist destination.