People have always loved visiting locations from their favourite TV shows – just consider the number of smiling selfies that have been taken out the front of the Seinfeld diner in New York.
But lately there’s a more unusual hot spot people are travelling to off the back of a popular series.
According to a Reuters report, tourism to Chernobyl is booming since a hit new TV show made its debut.
The five-part Sky and HBO co-production Chernobyl made headlines last month when it was ranked as the best TV show on one of the world’s most respected entertainment databases, IMBd.
Peaking with a score of 9.7 out of 10, Chernobyl outscored previous No.1, the 2016 David Attenborough documentary Planet Earth II.
Since its May 6 premiere it has also scored an approval rating of 96 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes.
The TV series dramatises the 1986 explosion in the fourth reactor of the atomic plant that sent clouds of nuclear material across much of Europe.
The amount of radioactive material sent into the atmosphere that evening was 400 times that from bombing of Hiroshima.
It also looks at the enormous clean-up operation that followed, and the subsequent inquiry.
‘Dark tourism’ drawing a crowd
Sergiy Ivanchuk, director of SoloEast tours, told Reuters his company saw a 30 per cent increase in tourists going to the area in May compared with the same month last year.
Bookings for June, July and August have risen by approximately 40 per cent since HBO aired the show, he said.
Other companies in the area have experienced similar growth.
Tours usually depart from the Ukraine capital of Kiev, and it’s a 120-kilometre bus trip to Chernobyl. English-language tours usually cost about $US100 ($143) per person.
New companies are reportedly popping up, offering tours that specifically visit sites mentioned in the mini-series.
The site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters has long been on the itinerary of people interested in “dark tourism”.
The area around Chernobyl – including the abandoned village of Pripyat, where many workers from the power plant lived – retains the air of a ghost town.
Visitors marvel at the abandoned amusement park, complete with silent dodgem cars and a ferris wheel that never actually turned (it was due to open four days after the explosion).
Wildlife has started to return to the area, and tourists take photos of the foxes that roam the streets of Pripyat.
Tour operators insist it’s safe to enter the zone, but it’s worth noting Ukrainian officials have suggested that Pripyat will not be inhabitable for another 20,000 years.
Visitors are instructed not to sit down or touch items within the “exclusion zone”, the restricted space that surrounds the area of the explosion. Everyone who enters is checked for radioactive particles when they leave.
Chris Leadbeater writes in The Telegraph: “Whether or not you consider any possible impact on your health to be worth the risk of proximity will depend on how much you want to see a place that has become not just a time capsule but a remnant of the Cold War era beyond the scope of anything that can be created in a museum.”
Megan Nolan, who travelled to the area last year, found it a bizarre experience. She writes in The Guardian that “potential danger is almost commodified”.
She describes vendors around Pripyat selling snacks with the radiation symbol on the labels from vans festooned with gas masks and rubber protective gear.
“Unlike some other sites of tragedy that, despite mass attendance, are places of solemnity and reflection, this is a messy and morally queasy experience,” she wrote.
- Chernobyl is available in Australia via On Demand on Fox Showcase