Is it safe to visit the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site – what you need to know

Chernobyl is one of the world's most famous nuclear disasters, after one of the power plant's reactors exploded in 1986.

The disaster saw over 350,400 people evacuated from their homes as the area faced high levels of radiation.

Nowadays the area is practically deserted although the surrounding regions have seen people venturing back.

Now, the tragedy is back in the spotlight as the new Chernobyl HBO series airs on Sky Atlantic, offering a dramatisation of the aftermath of the explosion.

The series itself is filmed in Lithuania , but it's had fans wondering – can you visit Chernobyl, and is it safe? We take a look at the answers below…

Where is Chernobyl?

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is located in Ukraine in the village of Pripyat, approximately a two hour-drive north of capital Kiev.

Can you visit Chernobyl?

Yes – the areas surrounding Chernobyl, dubbed the 'Exclusion Zone', have been open to tourists since 2011.

However you can't go wandering on your own – you need to join a licenced, guided tour if you want to go exploring.

One of the reasons for this is that there are some derelict areas which can be quite dangerous if you don't know the lay of the land.

The FCO doesn't advise against travel to Chernobyl, although it does highlight that there are strict rules and regulations laid out by the Ukraine government if you are embarking on a visit.

If you are travelling, you should also check the latest FCO travel advice for Ukraine before you set off.

Is it safe to visit Chernobyl?

Authorities deemed the 'Exclusion Zone' safe to visit back in 2011 when it opened to visitors.

However because there are areas of high radiation, it's only safe if you visit for a short period of time (Guides often carry a Geiger counter). 

Because the buildings were abandoned and have become derelict, these can be quite dangerous, which is why you need to go with a tour guide who will know the safest routes.

It's worth noting that there are still plenty of items and buildings which can be highly contaminated – in fact, authorities have made it illegal to bring back any 'artifacts' from the area (including toys and old photos found on walks).

They warn that anyone who takes items will be contributing "to the distribution of radionuclides across the territory of Ukraine".

Guests who visit need to stick to the Ukraine government's strict rules including what you should wear and what to make sure you avoid while you're there.

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