Chernobyl Tour with Transnistria – July 2022
Chisinau & Bucharest
At A Glance
Welcome to the Soviet adventure of a lifetime. Our Chernobyl Tour kicks-off in Kiev, the proud capital of Ukraine and will finish in Bucharest in Romania. Before we spend the next 8 days travelling through Ukraine, Transnistria, Moldova and Romania, on the first night, you will have the opportunity to get to know your fellow travellers who will be with you and experience the heat of a Ukrainian night out at the unique ‘Hospital Bar’ in town just up the street from our hotel in Kiev.
During this tour, we will explore a tragic period, especially so in Ukrainian and Belarussian history as we visit Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear disaster and explore the exclusion zone and surrounding areas. We will spend the night in the zone at The Chernobyl Hotel. You will visit the abandoned city of Pripyat and our local guides are able to show us some sites that are not ordinarily accessible to tourists! During our visit to the area, we may also have the chance to meet and speak with some of the ‘self-settlers’ who have chosen to live here.
We will continue on to the historic city of Odessa which sits at the edge of the Black Sea. The city’s tree-lined boulevards, beaches and food scene makes this is a popular location for Ukranian and international visitors. The city is of major economic and strategic importance. After a brief stay and exploration of Odessa, it’s then onto Tiraspol, the de facto capital city of the unrecognised, breakaway Soviet republic of Transnistria, nestled between Ukraine and Moldova. You will see all that Tiraspol has to offer as we stroll and drive around to lots of sights of interest including the home stadium (outside) of Europe’s most secretive soccer club! It’s amazing to soak up the atmosphere in Tiraspol and check out some of the really inexpensive food and drink in the bars and restaurants. The hotel we will stay at here is Soviet kitsch at its absolute best.
From Transnistria, we go onwards to the city of Chisinau, Moldova’s green capital dating back to 1420 to experience a landscape rich in parks, lakes and wildlife. There are plenty of examples of older buildings side by side with joyfully Soviet-era buildings. We will take a walking tour around the city and get plenty of Moldovan food and wine as well as sampling the nightlife. As a trip highlight, we will pay a visit to the Crecova Winery just outside of Chisinau before taking an overnight train to Romania. Our Chernobyl & Transnistria Tour concludes in Bucharest with a ‘Ceausescu’s City’ walkabout where we relive the hectic revolution that eventually turned Romania into turmoil when thousands of citizens marched towards the ex-Soviet leader’s palace to end his tyranny. While in Bucharest we will say our final goodbyes to each other with dinner in Care Cu Bare in Bucharest and getting a look at the great nightlife in the city.
Dates & Pricing
Kiev > Chernobyl Tour > Pripyat > Odessa > Tiraspol > Bendery > Chisinau > Bucharest
- All transportation (except transport to Kiev for start of the tour, onward travel from Kiev after group 1 and onward travel from Bucharest after the tour finishes)
- All Accommodation
- Some local tours (unless otherwise stated)
- Visa Fees
- Food and drinks
- Personal expenses
- Local guide tips
- Single Supplement
Friday 15th July – Bucharest
- Own arrival at any time into Bucharest and check into our hotel located near Gara De Nord Station.
- We’ll meet up as a group in the hotel lobby at 6pm.
- Dinner at Care Cu Bare; easily GVT’s favourite restaurant on the planet.
- We’ll round off our first night with some drinks in Bucharest’s old town.
- Overnight in Bucharest.
Saturday 16th July – Bucharest
- We’ll check out and store our luggage in the hotel baggage room.
- We’ll meet our local Romanian guide for a day tour of Ceausescu’s Bucharest! No trip to Romania would be worth its salt unless we went and looked at everything and anything Ceausescu related, the don of Eastern Bloc extreme. We will do a local walking tour, seeing all the must-see sites from “revolutionary” times such as the enormous Palace of the Parliament, see where the Communist regime went down in flames on the bullet riddled streets around Revolutionary Square, see the churches that avoided Communist destruction by being placed on wheels and slid across the city and much more.
- Free afternoon in Bucharest to explore the city at your own pace. You may use this opportunity to wander the streets of the charming old town, visit the ruins of Dracula’s palace in the centre of the city, explore the flea market near the old Russian church, view a severed arm that is said to bring you luck in one of Bucharest’s most charming churches, or you can venture out of downtown to visit the infamous Spring Palace. It was here during the decades of Communist rule, that Nicolae Ceausescu and his family lived in luxury. Preserved by the military during the violent downfall of Communism in Romania, the house looks almost the same as when the dictator and his family were in power. Expect gold plated bathrooms, gifts from Chairman Mao, and opulence like you’ve never seen!
- Meet up up back at the hotel in the evening to collect your bags and head to the train station.
- We’ll board the 7:15pm train to Chisinau, this is an old school Communist era 4-berth sleeper and still has the made in the DDR plates on some of the walls!
- During the night, we’ll pass border control and the train will be lifted off the tracks to change wheel gauge
- Overnight on sleeper train
Sunday 17th July – Chisinau
- Early morning arrival in Chisinau and transfer to our central hotel.
- Check-in and catch up on any needed rest
- City walking tour of Chisinau. We’ll visit the abandoned National Hotel, see one of the most stunning monasteries in the city which was thankfully spared destruction under Communism, see the infamous city prison which has been declared a breach of human rights amongst other things.
- We’ll see the enormous World War II Memorial with tanks and surface to air missiles at the Military Museum!
- Traditional Moldovan lunch at La Placinte.
- Return to the hotel for an afternoon trip to Cricova Winery to see the wine making process and to of course sample a good amount of Eastern Europe’s best wine! This is one of the most fantastic wine cellars you are ever likely to see. We’ll enjoy a sampling of traditional Moldovan food here also.
- After some free time at the hotel we’ll head for a hearty meal at a local institution and drinks downtown.
- Overnight in Chisinau
Monday 18th July – Transnistria
- Breakfast in the hotel
- We’ll meet our Transnistria fixers for the 2 hour ride to the breakaway republic of Transnistria. GVT will deal with all permits, border formalities and conversations with the Transnistrian KGB/MGB.
- After checking into the original Soviet Intourist hotel, we’ll kick off our city tour of Tiraspol. This is the quintessential Soviet experience in the region’s original tourist hotel.
- We’ll walk down the main street called October 25th street which has a billboard of former President Smirnoff: The warlord who turned president for almost twenty years. We’ll see the embassies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the foreboding HQ of the infamous Sheriff organization and stop at a bookshop to pick up some Russian and Transnistrian nationalist paraphernalia, a mug with Putin or a fridge magnet of ICBMs firing across the atmosphere, why not?
- We’ll then stop at the impressive House of the Soviets, built in Stalinist style with a large bust of Lenin outside.
- We’ll mix with students at the Dolce Vita café, an inexpensive place with great buffet style food and the eatery of choice for students at nearby Tiraspol university.
- We’ll then transfer to the other end of October 25th street to see the North Korean style statue of Russian General Suvorov. Surrounding it are the flags of Russia, Transnistria and the breakaway brotherhood states of Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.
- Have you picture taken in front of a giant crest of Transnistria featuring the hammer and sickle!
- Visit Parliament, housing one of the biggest statues of Lenin outside Russia.
- Visit the Eternal Flame Memorial complex dedicated to the Soviet-Afghan war, WW2 and the Transnistrian civil war. Check out the battle damaged T-34 monument to WW2, it’s permitted to climb on it and get an awesome photo.
- We’ll then switch it up and board an old Soviet ferry without an engine and cross the Dniester river to see how the village people live across from Tiraspol. This is an area truly lost in the USSR!
- We’ll visit a still functioning palace of culture with an enormous head of Lenin outside, pockmarked with Kalashnikov bullet holes after Moldovan troops symbolically executed him during the civil war.
- We’ll then visit a stunning and completely self sufficient monastery complex that has to be seen to be believed. We know many of the priests there and sometimes they allow us to sample their incredible homemade wine, however, this is subject to whether the one priest with the key is available on the day.
- We pay a visit to a local store which hasn’t changed since the USSR and still uses an abacus to calculate the total. Here we’ll stock up on $3 Kvint Cognac (One of the best Cognacs in the Soviet era), $1 Vodka and local smoked cheese.
- We then head to a stunning viewpoint and Soviet obelisk that was one of the most brutal battlefields during WW2. In the Russian speaking world, it’s respect to the dead to raise a shot of Cognac or Vodka in their honour and we’ll do just that!
- Return to Tiraspol and head for dinner at 7Fridays, a Tiraspol institution!
- Afterwards we can head to one of the countries few nightclubs and try our hand at Russian karaoke!
- Overnight in Tiraspol
Tuesday 19th July – Transnistria
- For breakfast we’ll head to a great, Ukrainian restaurant in Tiraspol. Be prepared to wash away your hangover as they’ll well known for handing out complimentary shots of pepper Vodka, whether it’s 9:00am or not!
- We’ll stop at the flea market in Tiraspol, here it’s possible to buy all kinds of Soviet antiques for rock bottom prices. You never know what you will find!
- We then Transfer to Bender, one of Transnistria’s biggest cities and a site of fierce fighting during the civil war. We enter one of the largest outdoor markets in all of Transnistria. Guests will be able to shop and buy anything they want at very, very low prices. Also, many opportunities for old world type photos. This is a true old school, Russian market. Expect pigs heads, spices and everything imaginable for sale.
- We leave the market and continue walking down the main street until we reach the main church in the centre, well renovated and a favourite place for couples to get married. Here you can buy inexpensive Russian Orthodox jewellery and icons.
- We’ll check out the city hall which has been left exactly as it was during the civil war and is still filled with bullet holes.
- We continue walking down the main street until we arrive at Lenin Park. We view the main fountain, the bust of Lenin before going into the local cinema which is largely unchanged since Soviet times except Mission Impossible is playing instead of Soviet propaganda.
- We continue to walk down the main street until we reach the train station, renovated and well maintained. It seems like a ghost town because only a few trains stop here, and there are almost no passengers. Besides the train station is an old Soviet train from WWII with the hammer and sickle on the front.
- We’ll have lunch in the town at a local café called CCCP, this is designed to create a sense of nostalgia for locals and is packed with original Soviet memorabilia and great food.
- We head to the river to check out ‘The Great October’ theme park. There are old amusement rides including bumper cars and mini Ferris wheels here. A scene right out of the 1950’s, it may look abandoned but the rides are still operating and are very cheap.
- After Bender, we’ll head to a palace of culture (complete with a white Lenin outside) in a village populated by ethnic Bulgarians who migrated and settled here centuries ago
- We’ll see their monuments to WW2 and the civil war before heading inside the palace for a look.
- We’ll then head deep into the Soviet Wasteland for a visit to some forgotten Soviet war tunnels which run for hundreds of Kilometres!
- Return to Tiraspol, we will head out for dinner at 7Fridays
- Overnight in Tiraspol
Wednesday 20th July – Odessa
- After breakfast, we’ll board our bus for the 3 hour drive to Odessa, Ukraine. On arrival at the border we will cross the no man’s land between Ukraine and Transnistria which is an infamous smuggling route and we register with immigration and KGB/MGB. You’ll also be legally stamped out of Moldova by Moldovan peacekeepers, so you will have no issues if you wish to return to Moldova one day.
- Upon arrival, check into hotel and explore this famous Black Sea city at your own pace. Downtown offers a range of attractions ranging from the famous Potemkin Steps that were a prominent feature in the famous Sergei Eisenstein silent film Battleship Potemkin. You may wander the lively and charming pedestrian street called Deribavoskaya which is a great place to find great street food, souvenirs, and see local street artists. There is also a quirky smuggling museum that focuses on crime and smuggling in this port city through the centuries up to the current day.
- Enjoy the rest of the day relaxed at the beach by the Black Sea.
- Dinner and drinks in town
- Overnight in Odessa.
Thursday 21st July – Odessa
- We’ll enjoy breakfast in the hotel and enjoy a relaxed morning for those who want to get some extra beach time in.
- Meet our local Odessan guide who will take us away from the charming side of the city and show us the dark side of this city.
- This is the ‘Odessa Depression’ tour, prepare for abandoned Stalin era factories, abandoned Soviet brothels and nightclubs and the killing ground of hundreds of victims of the Odessa mafia.
- After the tour, we will store our luggage in Odessa station and you will have free time to explore downtown Odessa.
- We’ll meet back at the train station later in the evening to collect the bags and board our night train to Kiev.
- Overnight on the train.
Friday 22nd July – Kiev
- Morning arrival in Kiev and check into our nearby hotel.
- After a short break we’ll meet up with our local contact who was a veteran of the Euromaidan revolution and begin a city walking tour of Kiev, seeing where the revolution raged, where Lenin fell and talk about what has changed and the future holds for Ukraine.
- An optional trip to a shooting range where we are able to experience firing some high calibre Soviet-era guns this will also be combined with tank driving, where you will get behind the wheel of an original, Soviet-era tank! (extra charge).
- We meet up in the evening at 6:00pm and go out for dinner and drinks at Palata No 6, one of our favourite places and recently featured in the list of “10 places to drink in before you die”. Be sure to try the shot requiring you to wear a straitjacket and be set on fire…
- Overnight in Kiev.
Saturday 23rd July – Chernobyl
- Group A members – tour concludes
- Group B members – continue Chernobyl tour
- Wake up nice and early and board our comfortable AC minibus to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. On the way we will stop for breakfast at a well stocked gas station as well as watch a documentary of the Chernobyl disaster. The journey to the first checkpoint will take around two hours.
- On arrival, we go through the entry procedure and processing of our permits. This can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to one hour.
- Visit the village Zalissya, the main square of the town of Chernobyl, “Fukushima” memorial, Statue to Lenin, the abandoned Synagogue and the only active church in the zone.
- Lunch at the Workers Café (no produce is grown on site).
- Visit the Dock, local shops, Monument to the Firefighters, exposition of the remotely operated machines, hills of the buried village Kopachi, rustic kindergarten, panoramic angle of NPPA and existing sarcophagus, the construction site of the new sarcophagus, the Stone Road sign of Pripyat, Bridge of Death, Lenin Street, the main square of Pripyat, supermarket, Amusement Park, School #3 (with gas masks), and the Olympic swimming pool.
- We will also try our best to visit some sights we cannot mention online.
- Transfer to the Chernobyl Hotel for a classic Soviet experience. We will head for dinner and a sampling of vodka back at the hotel.
- Overnight in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.
Sunday 24th July – Chernobyl
- Wake up early with breakfast at the hotel, before we head back into the zone.
- Visit Duga 3, nicknamed the “Russian Woodpecker,” a Soviet “over-the-horizon” radar at its base “Chernobyl 2.”
- We’ll visit the abandoned Soviet army base and radar control centres.
- Visit the unfinished Cooling towers on the side of the unfinished reactors 5 and 6. Visit the “Red Forest.”
- Visit the Panel buildings with Soviet emblems, Palace of Culture and “Jupiter” factory.
- Visit the ruins of the School #1 and the infamous Pripyat hospital.
- Pripyat passenger boats on River Port, “Prometheus” cinema, music school and athletic stadium.
- Laboratory in the former kindergarten, abandoned village and palaces of culture.
- After a long day of exploring we board our bus for the drive back to Kiev.
- Arrive in Kiev between 6:00pm – 7:00pm where the tour concludes