May 12 – 19, 2018
In 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, U.S.S.R., experienced a cataclysmic disaster, a cautionary tale of science gone awry. In this eight-day journey with a New York Times expert and a range of specialists, explore the postapocalyptic Chernobyl zone. Expand your understanding of how the disaster came to be and how Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, dealt with the aftermath.
The explosion and fire that destroyed one of the reactors at Chernobyl spread radiation over much of Europe and the western Soviet Union. Its cause, many experts believe, was poor training and outdated equipment. The levels of radiation near the Chernobyl power plant have decreased enough to make visiting safe, and nature has crept in and reclaimed the factories, amusement parks, schools and homes, creating a surreal landscape of life abandoned in midstream. Gain an unparalleled perspective on this seminal world event, and emerge with an informed view of nuclear power.
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Day 1: Welcome to Kiev
Arrive in Kiev, Ukraine, and meet your fellow Times travelers and local guide for a welcome cocktail followed by dinner and a Ukrainian performance.
Day 2: Kiev’s Treasures
After breakfast, spend the day learning about the history of the city and Ukraine. See the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, with its bell towers and golden domes, and the Kiev Fortress, built by the Imperial Russian Army. After lunch, continue to the giant, titanium Motherland statue and the Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II. Return to the hotel for a talk by your expert, George Johnson, about his previous visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Dinner this evening is on your own.
Day 3: Zeroing In on Chernobyl
Visit the Golden Gate of Kiev and St. Sophia and St. Michael churches. Continue to the Kiev Institute for Nuclear Research to learn about the work being done today and the history of nuclear research in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum, dedicated to preserving the memory of the Chernobyl disaster and its aftermath. Return to the hotel for dinner on your own and to prepare for your early-morning departure to Chernobyl.
Day 4: The Exclusion Zone
Drive to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, an area of about 1,000 square miles, and begin your exploration of the strange world of Chernobyl, where abandoned homes, schools and factories create a unique and sometimes unsettling landscape. Pass through the Dytyatky checkpoint and see the abandoned towns of Zalissya and Kopachi.
Visit a decontaminated area of what is now called the Red Forest, where trees are not decomposing naturally because of the radiation they absorbed. At the Chernobyl plant itself, see (from a safe distance) the sarcophagus, the concrete dome hastily poured over Reactor No. 4 in an attempt to stanch the flow of radiation, and see the stainless steel New Safe Confinement arch, designed to last at least 100 years, but costing more than $1 billion, intended as a more permanent containment. Take an introductory tour of Pripyat, the city built along with the reactor to support the workers and their families.
Day 5: The Russian Woodpecker and Pripyat
Visit the secretive and powerful Duga-1 Soviet radar system, nicknamed the Russian Woodpecker for the repetitive tapping it made over shortwave radios, intended as an early warning system for the Soviet antiballistic missile network. Return to Pripyat for more extensive exploration: Visit the remains of the hospital that accepted contaminated firefighters after the accident, the town hall, the ruins of an amusement park that was never opened, a football field that has transformed into a forest over 30 years and many other strange sights. Learn to separate radiation myth from fact as your experts debunk common misconceptions.
Day 6: Nature, and People, Triumphant
Despite the disaster that was Chernobyl, nature has returned to the exclusion zone. Visit an experimental science base that examines the impact of radiation on wildlife, and learn about the ways nature has been affected by it over the past 30 years. In the village of Paryshiv, meet with returned settlers who are determined to live out their days in the place they were born. Board a train for Slavutych, the town built by the Soviet Union for the evacuees from Chernobyl and Pripyat.
Day 7: Managing the Disaster
Tour the city of Slavutych, visiting the city’s Chernobyl Museum and meeting with former citizens of Pripyat and the workers at the nuclear power plant. Continue to the Center for Radioecology to learn about the work being done to manage the lasting effects of the disaster. Return to Kiev for a final night and farewell dinner.
Day 8: Homeward Bound
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for individual flights home.
Premier Palace Hotel
This five-star hotel in the center of Kiev combines the elegance of the early 20th century with the conveniences of the 21st.
This Soviet-style hotel, the only one in the exclusion zone, serves meals that are ecologically clean.
Built in 2012, this simple but modern hotel is in a park zone.