Wanderlust's adventurous Commercial Manager, Heidi Hodgkins, has recently returned from visiting Kiev and abandoned Pripyat. Here's what she wishes she'd known before departing
Visit with the right mindset. Chernobyl/Pripyat is not about death and destruction but about nature taking back what rightly belongs to her. The wildlife here is abundant – you can see wolves, wild horses and, don't worry, no mutant species. Trees, bushes and plants have taken over the old buildings – it really is quite stunning.
The mosquitoes are the size of small helicopters and there are lots of them... lots and lots of them. If you need reassurance, they're so big in this area because they don't have any predators. Not for any other reason.
It is advisable to bring some of your own food – a few snacks and small bites. Visitors have their own section within the large canteen (strangely enough, you never see anyone else there) but the food is odd to say the least, breakfast consisted of pasta, fried egg and a burger. Don't get me wrong, food at the canteen is all part of the Chernobyl experience, but cucumber for breakfast lunch and dinner is a little too much.
Oh and don't be late. Otherwise a very annoyed cook will be waiting for you, arms folded, giving you that stare only mothers know how to give!
A day tour just isn't long enough at Chernobyl, stay for as long as possible. We stayed for two days and the highlight was simply walking around the abandoned buildings and just exploring. A quick day tour just doesn't give you the time to do anything other than look at the reactor and see a couple of key sites. If you really want to understand the enormity of what happened, you have to spend time there. I could happily spend a week just looking around.
I thought Kiev would be an interesting but necessary stop on the way to Chernobyl – how wrong I was. An immense amount of effort and thought was taken in rebuilding the Kiev after the war. The architecture is stunning and the city has an abundance of parks and museums. Very much the sort of city you can wander around for hours and hours marvelling at how beautiful everything is, before resting at a local coffee shop and watching the world go by.
Go there before everyone discovers it!