4-Xtremes – Part 33: At the scene of the nuclear disaster – an expedition through Chernobyl

Series: 4-Xtremes – The World Tour

Oppressive highlight.

Chernobyl made world history. 35 years later, you can now visit the site of the nuclear disaster – under strict safety regulations. Andrea and Mike dared to go there.

When no big wheel turns: in Prypyat the man-made world has been at a standstill since the reactor catastrophe in 1986.


Since the moment the Ukraine landed on our route plan, one thing has been certain: we will visit Chernobyl. Following the nuclear disaster on 26 April 1986, the authorities of the former Soviet Union declared a 30-kilometre radius around the damaged reactor block 4 a prohibited area. More than 160 villages and towns were evacuated or razed to the ground. Today the abandoned town of Prypyat is known the world over as the embodiment of a "lost place".

If you want to visit the zone, you must book a guided tour. We find a hostel whose owners will look after Aimée for a day. Our tour guide, Julia, is waiting for us at a checkpoint. Our passports and the drone are inspected, then we are given dosimeters to measure radiation – and ordered to keep them on us at all times. And then the barrier is raised for us and the Axor.


In Chernobyl the stricken reactor 4 now has a new protective structure.
In Chernobyl the stricken reactor 4 now has a new protective structure.
Pleasant atmosphere, invisible danger.
Pleasant atmosphere, invisible danger.
Strict checks before you can leave the prohibited area.
Strict checks before you can leave the prohibited area.

People are still working here.

To our amazement the road is brand new and so we reach Chernobyl quickly. The town is located outside the 10-kilometre-zone – the inner circle of the prohibited area. Many of the buildings have been renovated and serve as lodgings for the workers and engineers of the old Prypyat power plant. Scientists, soldiers, police officers, fire-fighters – there are in fact still a lot of people working here, although on a rota basis, so always only for a certain length of time. A good infrastructure, sunshine and autumn-coloured trees on the day of our visit: the pleasant atmosphere could easily belie the danger that this place still represents.

We see the New Safe Confinement over reactor block 4 and next to it reactor block 3 which continued to provide electricity until 2000. We are only allowed to stop and take photos in certain locations. Another checkpoint and we are in the 10-kilometre-zone, in Prypyat. The town then with a population of 50,000 was cleared very quickly. For 35 years now everything has been at a standstill and nature is recapturing Prypyat.


Welcome to Prypyat!
Welcome to Prypyat!
Not a lot left to see of the old boulevard.
Not a lot left to see of the old boulevard.
Dodgems which were never used.
Dodgems which were never used.
Abandoned to ruin.
Abandoned to ruin.
Nature is recapturing Prypyat.
Nature is recapturing Prypyat.

Prypyat – Sleeping Beauty for 35 years.

We drive along the main road. It was once a boulevard, but today it is overgrown and hardly recognisable. Prypyat was built less than 20 years before the catastrophe for the labour force at the plant and was considered to be relatively rich. Most of the buildings are locked. However we are allowed to explore a school, a kindergarten, a hotel and a few other buildings – even on our own.

We also go to perhaps the most well-known place in this once flourishing town: the pleasure grounds with a big wheel and dodgems. They weren't even in operation yet when Prypyat came to such a sudden end in 1986. Just before we come to the end of the tour – much too soon – we make a stop at the Duga radar system. The 150-metre receiving aerial was part of an over-the-horizon radar system which served the Soviets as a missile defence system.


Exit only after a strict inspection.

Then things get serious: before we can leave the prohibited area, we have to pass two checkpoints with full-body scanners. The Axor is also inspected for radiation. The dosimeters are sent to a lab for evaluation. If the readings are too high, you are informed and must undergo a medical examination and if necessary treatment. We are spared that. And so we continue our world tour – one memory richer; that of an oppressive but extremely exciting day.


4-Xtremes – The World Tour.

A one-of-a-kind journey.

For eleven months, Andrea and Mike Kammermann were on the “4‑Xtremes” tour with their Axor. Now they are on an even greater adventure. The pair from Switzerland will be on the road for three years and the RoadStars community will again be joining them on the trip! Always be up-to-date and don’t miss any of the breathtaking destinations that our adventurous couple are heading for.

You can find all the parts from the “4-Xtremes – The World Tour” series here.


Photos: 4-Xtremes

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