25 Haunting Chernobyl Pictures – 30 Years Later

Written By: Nathaniel Hake

Chernobyl, Ukraine was the site of a terrible nuclear accident on April 26, 1986 when a reactor meltdown spewed radioactive material all over Europe.

A large area around Chernobyl nuclear power plant was evacuated and is uninhabitable for thousands of years. This series of Chernobyl pictures show the nuclear disaster site 30 years later.

Chernobyl Pictures – 30 Years Later

chernobyl pictures | doll's head
a doll’s head left behind in Pripyat

They say the radiation levels are low enough now and it is safe to visit for a short time, but if you are too scared to go yourself, here are 22 chernobyl pictures that will give you a glimpse into what it looks like today.

Pictures of Pripyat – An Abandoned and Radioactive Town

chernobyl pictures children
A mural depicts happier days

About 36 hours after the accident at Chernobyl, the Soviets evacuated the nearby town of Pripyat, which at the time had a population of nearly 50,000. The evacuees thought they would only be gone for a few days, and so they left almost everything behind. The residents were workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and had no time to react to the nuclear disaster. Watch the HBO Series

chernobyl photos | newspaper
Abandoned newspaper is a reminder of how quickly they left.

A large area around the nuclear reactor was evacuated and will remain uninhabitable for thousands of years. 30 years after the infamous accident it is possible to visit Chernobyl on a guided tour.

chernobyl photos | album
A record lay in tact

Remnants of everyday life in the city of Pripyat are frozen in time after fleeing the nuclear disaster — newspapers, records, dolls, appliances (some of them still highly radioactive) — lie strewn about the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

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Grocery store ruined by radioactive waste

Pripyat’s grocery store has been mostly destroyed, but shopping carts still sit near the entrance.

chernobyl pictures | grocery cards

Chernobyl’s “Stalkers”

Today the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone extends for a 30 kilometer radius around the reactor. I visited as part of one of the heavily-controlled and sanctioned tours from Kiev, Ukraine. But the area is so large that it is possible to sneak by the authorities (not advisable!).

chernobyl victims haunting dolls
A doll that has been moved by stalkers

In fact, an entire subculture of mostly young people in Kiev — called “stalkers” — are known to sneak into Chernobyl to explore the many abandoned buildings. This, of course, is very dangerous. Just touching the various items in Chernobyl is a bad idea, as some are still highly radioactive.

chernobyl aftermath | items left behind
Evacuated in the middle of everyday life.

Yet these stalkers are known to enter the abandoned buildings and move objects, like these dolls, to make Chernobyl pictures or videos that they hope will go viral on social media.

Wildlife at Around the Chernobyl exclusion zone

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Animals are coming back

The stalkers aren’t the only ones in Chernobyl today. Although the Soviets hunted down all animals in the area after the accident (to prevent the spread of radiation), wildlife has returned to the exclusion zone in force. Many dogs, foxes, and even wolves freely roam the grounds of Chernobyl.

Nuclear Reactor Today

After a cleanup effort that was enormously expensive both in cost and its human toll, the Soviets covered the failed reactor in a sarcophagus to contain the radioactive material inside.

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Chernobyl Reactor – sarcophagus to contain the radioactive material

It was only designed to last 30 years, however, so a new sarcophagus is currently being installed. Surprisingly, it is possible to get very close to the Chernobyl reactor (pictured above).

The radiation levels near the reactor are actually less than in other areas of the exclusion zone. This is because they had to carefully clean up the area, since other reactors at the Chernobyl power plant continued in operation for almost fifteen years after the disaster.

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Gas Mask left in abandoned buildings

In Pripyat’s secondary school, science sets and gas masks are found in old chemistry classrooms.

Visiting the Town of Pripyat Today

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Abandoned Gym

30 years after the accident, day tours are now being offered from Kiev to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. And, yes, it is safe. They say that the amount of radiation you’ll receive on a typical tour of Chernobyl is less than the average dose to a passenger on a flight from Kiev to Toronto.

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Empty swimming pool

The exclusion zone tours take visitors through many abandoned buildings, like the above gym or the below-swimming pool.

Chilling Chernobyl Images of Abandoned Schools

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This was the kindergarten

Perhaps the most haunting Chernobyl pictures of the tragedy can be found in the abandoned schools.

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Child’s shoes left behind

Here, a child’s shoes lie abandoned in a kindergarten while in the next room rusted-out bed frames are still filled with lonely toys and pillows.

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Science Kit at Chernobyl Classroom

Everyone was evacuated in the middle of their every day lives.

More Eerie Chernobyl Pictures

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Abandoned football field

Nearby, an old football stadium is being reclaimed by the elements.

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Eerie feeling at the abandoned amusement park

Perhaps the most iconic reminder of Pripyat town is its old amusement park, including a large Ferris wheel that stands frozen in time.

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Abandoned amusement park Ferris wheel

Abandoned Soviet Apartments

Numerous Soviet-style apartment buildings compose the core of the town Pripyat.

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An old piano left behind

Though it is technically prohibited to enter them, many tour groups still allow you a peek inside. There you’ll find dusty time capsules of life in the Soviet Union.

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It seems as if this book was left half read

Pianos, dishes, sewing manuals, books — household objects of every kind lay dormant in these buildings, eerie ghosts of a population whose lives were upended by the Chernobyl tragedy.

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Signs of life before the disaster

Want to visit yourself (and perhaps take your own Chernobyl pictures)? If you are in Kiev, it is fairly easy to book a tour through one of the government-sponsored agencies. Be sure to book ahead of time, though, as the authorities require advance notice of guests to Chernobyl.

  • The trip takes a full day and costs $100-$300 USD, depending on the company and demand.
chernobyl pictures | haunting dol
Chernobyl Disaster in Pictures
  • Chernobyl Disaster Facts:
    • The date of the nuclear disaster occurred on April 26 1986
    • The Nuclear plant is located 81 miles (130 kilometers) north of Kiev in the Ukraine
    • The city of Pripyat had a population of 50,000 people and was located just 2 miles from the plant.
    • Within the first few months of the explosion 31 people died as a direct result of Chernobyl, but it is believe that thousands died from radiation exposure over the years.

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About Nathaniel Hake

Nate is an American who left his job as an attorney to explore the world. In the past year, he has visited almost 40 countries across six continents. Nate prefers to visit countries that are off the tourist trail, and writes about emerging travel destinations at his blog TravelLemming.com. Follow Nate at TravelLemming.com / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

Leave a Comment

16 thoughts on “25 Haunting Chernobyl Pictures – 30 Years Later”

  1. Wow, what a haunting and sobering collection of photos! 30 years later, it’s clear that the Chernobyl disaster will never be forgotten.

  2. Not a good feeling to see the destruction that Nuclear Power leaves behind. Melt downs due to defective components, such as fuel rods, are preventable. I call human error. My mother was a whistle blower in 1974 at a plant in Oklahoma. Even then, she was smart enough to comprehend corporations were dealing with a “Monster” they knew very little about.

  3. Great article! I was just there in June and the tour was awesome! I especially liked being able to explore on your own in the villages on the way. Also spent 3 wks in Kiev, GREAT city to visit! I miss it everyday!!

  4. Only a matter of time till something like this happens again………
    My uncle works at one in the US and he said cutting corners will assure it happens again

  5. I love this post and people who visit places off the grid like this. This looks very interesting and cool at the same time! I will have to consider doing this in the future. It actually just inspired me to do something similar for a cool Halloween blog for the month of October. Cheers and keep up the great work!

  6. There is an erie presence about that place no matter how you look at it or what you hear about it. Some of the photos I have seen of this place are amazing and beautiful but still so creepy!

  7. Thanks Pilot Mark! And Stefanie, it really is a cool journey. Pretty dark given the sad history, but well worth it in my mind. Plus Kiev is already a cool place to visit in its own right.

  8. Woow, this looks really amazing,
    This is really on my have to do list before i get into my 40’s

    Keep posting,
    Kind regards

  9. Excellent post Nate! Fascinating photos of a highly unexplored place. Its crazy how people risk their lives like that for a photo. They did the job on the creepiness levels though. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Ryan & Alex – yeah, they are really out of their minds to go! You don’t even know what a little bit of radiation can do to you until much later usually.

    Logan – Thanks, was quite the adventure!

  11. Incredible! What an informative discussion and chilling photos. I cannot believe you went – looks like quite the adventure.

    Thank you for this amazing glimpse at an time capsule.

  12. Hi Nate,

    Those stalkers are nuts! Anything for a viral snap I suppose 😉 Thanks for the inspired photos.