The lost city of Pripyat slowly decays and is overtaken by the forest near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine.  The former worker-town was constructed in 1970 as the ninth nuclear city in the Soviet Union to support operations at the nuclear power plant in the Ivankiv Raion district of Ukraine.  At the time it was evacuated on the afternoon of April 27th, 1986, over 49,000 residents lived in the city.

When the powerful explosions ripped apart the Unit 4 reactor, radioactive materials were released into the environment and contamination flooded through the streets of Pripyat.  When the residents of Pripyat woke up on the morning of April 26th, they could clearly see the smoke rising from the crippled Unit 4 reactor and they must have wondered if they were being told the truth about what was happening at the power plant. Radiation measurements taken a few days after the accident revealed that most of the city contained dose rates between 500 milliroentgen and 1,000 milliroentgen per hour.

The city was a model for the Soviet Union, featuring high-rise apartment buildings, a cultural center, swimming pools, theaters, five schools, various universities, factories, stores, cafes, playgrouns, a stadium and even a railroad station.  Visitors were amazed at it’s convenient design and attractive surroundings.  Everything had been planned, even the streets had been arranged to minimize traffic delays.  Even though it was a young city, Pripyat soon began to attract new residents who were willing to go through considerable difficulties in acquiring permits for residence.

The symbol of Pripyat was Prometheus, a Greek god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humankind.  The administration of the city commissioned a powerful statue depicting Prometheus, complete with fiery torch (representing the electricity produced at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant) held above his head, and placed it outside the Prometheus Cinema (Kinoteatr Prometei).

The center of the city featured the Hotel Polissa and the “Energetik” Palace of Culture.  The Palace of Culture is one of the most incredible buildings, featuring beautiful murals, a boxing ring, swimming pool and even housing an underground shooting range.  Some of the buildings in the city were once adorned with Soviet slogans like “Let the atom be a worker and not a soldier”. – but many of these have been removed, scavenged, or have collapsed.

After the accident, firefighters and operational staff who were injured or had received lethal doses of radiation were brought to the Hospital Number 6 in Pripyat before they were transported to other medical facilities across the Soviet Union.

The abandoned city is truly a unique destination, allowing the visitor to witness the deserted landscape that used to house nearly 50,000 people.  The city is a testament to what the world could look like if humans were wiped out by nuclear weapons or a plague.  Nature is reclaiming the city 30 years after it was evacuated.  There have been many times where I have been walking on a trail through the forest and looked over to see a street sign and been reminded that this was once a busy hive of activity.

Some of the more popular tourist sites in the city include the Azure Swimming Pool, the Avanhard Stadium and of course the ferris wheel in the Pripyat amusement park.  There are many other things to find however, including the abandoned equipment areas (like “The Claw”), the hospital where firefighters and first responders were taken after the explosion, and the former Jupiter factory on the edge of the city.

The buildings are decaying and visitors are not supposed to enter them due to potential safety hazards.  Nearly all of the buildings have significant water damage and failing floors.

At the entrance of the city is the infamous Pripyat City Sign, where newlyweds would once pose for pictures after the wedding ceremony.

After Pripyat was evacuated, the city of Slavutych was constructed to accommodate liquidators, scientist and workers at the nuclear power plant.