Since HBO released the first episode of Chernobyl on May 6, the miniseries has grown into a sensation, receiving glowing reviews and surpassing The Wire and Breaking Bad to become the top-rated show on IMDb. After watching the chilling recreation of the 1986 nuclear disaster, many viewers had the same question: Is the Chernobyl exclusion zone open to visitors? It is, and as CNN reports, tourism there has risen 35 percent as a result of the show.
Following the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant's RBMK reactor 33 years ago, a 2500-square-mile exclusion zone was established around the disaster site. Radiation levels are nowhere near where they were in 1986, but the vegetation, buildings, and wildlife in and around Pripyat, Ukraine are still radioactive. It isn't safe to live there, but by signing up for a tour you can visit the area surrounding the power plant.
Victor Korol, director of the tour company SoloEast, said that bookings for trips to Chernobyl have spiked 35 percent since the miniseries premiered. He told CNN, "It's almost as though they watch it and then jump on a plane over."
A day tour of Chernobyl costs $99. Once inside the exclusion zone, adventurers can explore the town of Pripyat, which was abruptly evacuated in 1986; stand under the Ferris wheel at the abandoned amusement park, and see the infamous nuclear reactor (safely enclosed in a steel structure to contain radiation) from an observation point 1000 feet away. Though the company says day trips to Chernobyl are "100 percent" safe, guests are asked to stick to approved routes, wear clothing that provides maximum coverage to their bodies, and avoid touching buildings and shrubbery to keep radiation exposure to a minimum.
If you can't make it to Ukraine to see Chernobyl, or aren't interested in being exposed to even mild levels of radiation, you can check out photos taken inside the exclusion zone from the safety of your home. You can also learn more about what it's like to visit here.