Chernobyl Is Now a Tourist Haven Thanks to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Games

Yup... people are visiting this place because of the STALKER games... (Credit: Cheryl L. Reed/for the Chicago Tribune)

Thanks to Ukrainian developer GSC Game World and their S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series Chernobyl has turned from the world's worst nuclear disaster into a tourist attraction.

What are the first thoughts that come to your mind when you think about Chernobyl? Something along the lines of a nuclear catastrophe that left consequences for decades? It's either that or a real-life attraction that leads thousands of tourists to visit it. The dark history of Chernobyl was documented not only in various movies and shows but also in GSC Game World's games with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series.

Stalker shadow of chernobyl
The atmosphere in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games is grim. (Credit: GSC Game World)

The first game in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise was Shadow of Chernobyl and it came out all the way back in 2007. The title was a massive success, and it even led to real-life cosplays and events dedicated to "the Zone" (the place where the games take place) such as STALKERFEST. GSC Games followed it up with a prequel called S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky in 2008 and a sequel to the original in 2009 named S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat.

All of the games were heavily inspired by the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky and the movie called Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. That's where the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise got its name from. While the games may be over a decade old now, a whole generation of people grew up playing them, and it's no surprise that their interest in the mystical "Zone" grew over the years.

Up until 2019, Chernobyl was a no-go zone, at least legally. Despite that many people were still visiting it, and it was rumored to be full of thugs, poachers, and such aka "stalkers". It all changed in that year when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree to develop the zone.

We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life. Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it. Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real "ghost town". We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists.
Chernobyl Is Now a Tourist Haven Thanks to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Games
Chernobyl Tour is just one of the ways to get into the zone. (Credit: Chernobyl Tour)

Currently, there are two ways into the zone: the legal one (with an agency) and the illegal one. Many ex-players prefer the latter as it offers greater immersion into the atmosphere of Chernobyl. Sadly, that's punishable with an administrative offense, but that's a risk many "stalkers" are willing to take. There's currently a bill that's set to make it a criminal offense. So where are you planning your next holiday? Would you consider Chernobyl as an option? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter!


Oh, btw, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is already in the making, but a release date is unknown. A good bet would be this year but who knows!

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