Although several countries have laid claim to various portions of Antarctica, it is governed by the 1958 Antarctic Treaty, which establishes the continent as a peaceful and cooperative international research zone. There are no cities per se, just some two dozen research stations with a total population ranging from 1000-4000 depending on the time of year. These are maintained for scientific purposes only, and do not provide any official support for tourism. The laws of the nation operating each research station apply there.
Private travel to Antarctica generally takes one of three forms: 1) commercial sea voyages with shore visits (by far the most popular), 2) specially mounted land expeditions, or 3) sightseeing by air. Approximately 80 companies belong to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, a membership organization which regulates non-research travel to the region. In the 2005-2006 summer season, an estimated 26,250 people visited Antarctica or the surrounding waters.
The best way to visit Antarctica is on a cruise ship where expert guides lead visitors safely around the most popular destinations and expose them to new experiences unique to Antarctica. With no government or administration all activity is carried out by and on behalf of other countries as Antarctica has no economy or currency.
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