Why it's Taboo: Once the last unspoiled place on Earth, Antarctica has been attracting record numbers of tourists in recent years. Scientists worry that tourists are accidentally importing nonnative invasive plant and insect species to the continent. Trash and pollution from ships, the potential for accidents and oil spills, and tourists causing erosion and other damage are all environmental concerns for the Antarctic tourist industry.
Why it's Still Worth Going: It's the only place on earth with no permanent inhabitants. The natural scenery is unlike anywhere else in the world, with icebergs, penguins, and seemingly endless pristine ocean. According to Courtenay Oswin, marketing coordinator for Quark Expeditions (operator of the first carbon-neutral voyage to Antarctica), "We firmly believe that tourism is and should continue to be a driving force in Antarctic conservation. Firsthand travel experiences in Antarctica foster education and a better understanding of the destination and the need for responsible tourism."
How to Visit: Thoroughly research tour companies' environmental policies before choosing a provider for your trip. "Shipborne tourism does provide a legitimate means, within the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty System and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, to meet the tourism demand without the need for permanent infrastructure and with limited residence time," says Oswin. Ships must apply for permits to visit Antarctica and undergo environmental assessments to ensure that they are following international regulations for safety and treatment of waste and ballast water.
See story: 10 taboo tourist destinations (and how to visit them)