During the world’s worst
nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, Belarus, lying
16km from Chernobyl was hit brutally hard by the catastrophic fallout. 66% of
the territory of Belarus was contaminated with cesium-137. In response, the
Belarussian government set up an exclusion zone around their contaminated
territory for decades. Only now, they have decided to open it to those holding
permits and accompanied by a representative from the Belarussian government.
Inside the exclusion zone
is a treasure trove of Soviet artifacts and relics, from abandoned boats and
factories to watchtowers and propaganda centres, this is an area truly trapped
Luckily, YPT have been pioneering travel to nuclear exclusion zones for the past decade and we can get you inside. You simply submit a copy of your passport and we go through our contacts and take care of all the paperwork. Belarus, itself a very closed off country until recently, now has a handy 30 day visa free entry for a vast number of countries provided you enter and exit via Minsk airport.
Feel like extending your adventure? Join us for our Soviet Baltics tour right before this tour!
Arrival in Minsk at your own leisure and check into our centrally located Soviet era hotel with Western comforts.
Meetup with your YPT guide and the rest of the crew, including those coming from our Soviet Baltics Tour in the evening to head to a local Belarussian brewery restaurant with great local food and beer.
Overnight in Minsk
Saturday 9th October – Minsk
We’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast at the hotel before we check out and store our luggage in the baggage storage room.
Our first destination of the day will be the incredible Azgur Museum. A place for lovers of Soviet statues and nostalgia. This huge room used to be the workshop of Soviet sculptor Zair Azgur, and there are still hundreds of different sizes busts of Soviet and Communist leaders staring down at you as you walk around. Expect to see Lenin, Stalin, Mao and even North Korean leaders!
From Lenin Square, we’ll then take a Soviet walking tour of the centre of Minsk, strolling the length of Independence Avenue past the still functioning KGB building, WW2 monuments, Soviet art and architecture and many other iconic Soviet landmarks. We’ll even see the apartment of JFK’s assassin: Lee Harvey Oswold!
If time permits, we’ll also visit the Belarussian WW2 museum, one of Europes best World War II museums featuring a trove of Soviet and Nazi tanks, weaponry and harrowing history of the region during the Second World War. Belarus lost a third of its population during the Nazi invasion.
We’ll then sample some Georgian food for dinner before we return to the hotel to collect our bags and board the night train to Gomel.
Overnight on the train.
Sunday 10th October – Gomel Belarusian Exclusion Zone
On arrival in Gomel, we will transfer to the Belarusian exclusion zone and after clearing the checkpoints with our permits we will enter the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve, where we will enter the scientists research centre and learn about the real consequences of the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, you will be amazed by nature diversity caused by the absence of human intervention and will be able to examine the radiation background with an accompanying expert guide.
The main objective of our trip is to get acquainted with the activities of the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve, to learn about radiation contamination issues with the scientific staff of the reserve, as well as to monitor the flora and fauna of the territories where human activity was almost completely terminated.
You will be surprised how quickly nature has recovered: for 30 years of human absence, the reserve’s territory was inhabited by the Przhevalsky horse, and the number of bison here is one of the highest in Belarus. Thanks to the ban on hunting in the exclusion zone, the number of wolves and other wild animals has also recovered.
Our route is built due to the lowest dosimeter indicators, which makes our stay at the territory of the reserve safe. We will visit the villages inhabited by those brave enough to return to the exclusion zone and live full time, the Pripyat river, whose shores are still littered with abandoned boats, Soviet relics, eerie abandoned cemeteries and Soviet industrial buildings.
We’ll visit former Soviet political propaganda centres full of Soviet relics and posters.
You will have the chance to visit many of the 96 abandoned Belarusian villages in the zone. Before the disaster, over 22,000 people lived throughout these settlements.
We’ll have the chance to climb a Soviet watchtower and get a birds eye view of the exclusion zone. On a clear day from here you can see Pripyat and the new dome over Reactor 4 inside the territory of Ukraine.
After exploring the zone and clearing radiation control, we’ll transfer back to Gomel and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
We’ll then head to the train station for the night train back to Minsk.
Overnight on the train.
Monday 11th October
Morning arrival in Minsk and end of tour.
Onward travel or tour extras can be arranged by Young Pioneer Tours.