Everyone Wants to Visit Antarctica

Palmer ice-breaker scene in Antarctica
A still from a time-lapse video of two months aboard an Antarctic ice-breaker. (Image credit: Cassandra Brooks)

Well, maybe not everyone, but the frigid continent and its environs are becoming a hot new vacation destination. Numbers of visitors to the Antarctic were up sharply for the 2012-2013 season over the previous year, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).

A whopping 34,316 tourists visited the Antarctic during the most recent tourist season — about 8,000 more people than the previous year, according to IAATO data, but on par with previous seasons. The increase came from a rise in the numbers of tourists on small and medium-sized boats, as well as a rise in the number of people going on Antarctic cruises (and don't actually set foot on the Antarctic continent), reported the Gadling travel blog. The IAATO doesn't expect the increase for the 2013-2014 season to be nearly as steep, Gadling said.

The tourist season in Antarctica runs mainly from November to February (summer in the Southern Hemisphere). There are no native inhabitants of Antarctica, but some research stations are occupied year-round.

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Andrea Thompson
Live Science Contributor

Andrea Thompson is an associate editor at Scientific American, where she covers sustainability, energy and the environment. Prior to that, she was a senior writer covering climate science at Climate Central and a reporter and editor at Live Science, where she primarily covered Earth science and the environment. She holds a graduate degree in science health and environmental reporting from New York University, as well as a bachelor of science and and masters of science in atmospheric chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology.