10 Eerie Abandoned Cities You Can Visit

Pripyat, Ukraine
One of the most-photographed structures in Pripyat, Ukraine is the amusement park that was scheduled to open a few days after the Chernobyl disaster and never did. Pyotr Sivkov\TASS via Getty Images

Pripyat was the site of the world's worst nuclear power disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. And strangely, it has also become a tourist attraction, complete with hotels and guided tour companies.

So how did this happen? When Reactor No. 4 exploded in April 1986, the 50,000 Pripyat residents were forced to leave. Clouds of radioactive particles flooded the air during a routine shutdown of the plant, making the city unsafe to live. Today it's still contaminated, although the curious may now visit some of the sites where the radioactivity has fallen to safe levels [source: Skyscanner].

One tour operator runs several trips of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, including a 12-hour tour with stops at an abandoned hospital, school and secret military radar station. One of the most popular sites is the city's amusement park, which was scheduled to open on May 1, 1986. Visitors love to snap photos of the park's enormous rusted Ferris wheel, adorned by bright-yellow canopied cars. The tourists are also taken with the old Communist propaganda posters and artifacts, which harken back to the vanished days of the U.S.S.R. [sources: Isalska, Chernobyl Wel].

Before you go, remember that the area is still dangerous, and so plenty of rules govern a visit. Tourists must sign a disclaimer promising not to touch anything or sit on the ground. Before they leave, they get a body scan. If it blares a warning, the person will be "swept" of any radioactive dust before being permitted to leave [source: Isalska].

Although no one is allowed to live in the Exclusion Zone, about 200 people have remained. Some of these folks and others attend services at Pripyat's striking turquoise-and-white St. Elijah Church [source: Isalska].