Chernobyl is a radioactive wasteland, fallout from a horrific meltdown. Except after decades of abandonment, it's not so much a wasteland as an unintentional wildlife refuge. Check out these futuristic designs to transform the disaster zone into a prime tourist destination.

Although it sounds utterly bonkers to go sightseeing next to a nuclear meltdown, most of the ongoing radioactive risk near Chernobyl is confined to the plant structure, and the dark depths of the melted reactor. That's not to say it's a totally safe space — even after opening up the Exclusion Zone to tourism in 2011, the Ukraine restricts maintenance workers from working more than 5 days in 20 at the site. But if you avoid eating the creatures or drinking the water where radiation has been concentrating for the past few decades, it's probably less risky than going skydiving or climbing Mount Everest.

Chernobyl's Elephant's Foot is genuinely scary, a patch of radioactive black lava straight from the meltdown. Do not poke it for fun. Image source: US Department of Energy


ZA Architects' Ageeva Arina, Konstantin Bondarenko, and Dmitry Zhuikov took up the challenge of thinking about the appeal of visiting urban wastelands, generating this plan to turn Ukraine's underpopulated exclusion zone into a sightseeing destination. Their plan respects that the free-flow of wildlife is essential to the location's appeal, placing tourists in raised trains to eyeball majestic bunnies from above.

The plan comes with a colourful map with carefully-labelled stops, reminiscent of a demented holiday funpark, provided you don't mind the horrific history of deaths.

In addition to the end-point stations to the southeast and northwest, stations within the exclusion area at Chernobyl and Ilyintsy, would allow tourists to hop out and explore the idyllic grassy plains, where presumably the white precipitation in the sketches is snow and not radioactive ash fall.

Because no tourist destination is complete without hotels and entertainment, ZA Architects imagines pod-like hotels dropped along the southern side of the track, and sight-seeing tower. Tourists could climb the very pointy glass-and-concrete construct to spot yet more radioactive bunnies, per perhaps a critically-endangered Przewalski's horse prancing off in the distance.

ZA Architect's futuristic structures fit with the dystopian vibe of a nuclear wasteland, while subtle touches like soundproof-barricades dampening the auditory impact of trains within the zone are respectful of this accidental animal sanctuary. It's a cool concept, but considering it was proposed way back in 2011 when the Ukraine first opened the Exclusion Zone to tourism, I don't think we'll be seeing it anytime soon.

Image credits: ZA Architects. Tip via @GammaCounter. For more futuristic dreams, consider these student-designed space colonies. For a realistic look at Chernobyl, check out these satellite images.