Chernobyl: Photos show illegal urban tours around abandoned nuclear disaster site

Liam James

Since the explosion of a nuclear reactor prompted a mass evacuation in 1986, access to the 1,000sq-mile area around the Chernobyl power plant has been restricted to civilians. Only those with a day pass and a licensed tour guide may enter, or so they say.

Flouting this restriction are the Chernobyl Explorers, who for the past nine years have been bypassing the visitor's centre and roaming the area on their own.

The Explorers lead four-day long tours of the exclusion zone that visit sites which have otherwise been left alone since the explosion. They are not licensed so they are not subject to the rules of the official tours.

Free-climbing the 150 metre-tall Duga radar tower for instance is not a licensed activity and while the official tours must return to Kiev every evening, the Chernobyl Explorers stay overnight in a flat in the ghost town of Pripyat.

The tours are however illegal, but then urban exploring tends to be. While the Explorers do lead tourists into breaking Ukraine law, they insist that they follow the law of the urban explorer: “take only pictures, leave only footprints.”