Visits to the Acropolis of Athens, Greece’s most popular archaeological site, will be capped from next month, with a maximum of 20,000 each day and varying hourly entry limits, the Greek government has confirmed.
Culture minister Lina Mendoni said the controls were needed to prevent bottlenecks and overcrowding at the Unesco World Heritage site. As many as 23,000 people a day have been squeezing into the monument complex, mostly large groups visiting before noon.
“That’s a huge number,” Ms Mendoni said in an interview with the Real FM radio network. “Obviously tourism is desirable for the country, for all of us. But we must work out how excessive tourism won’t harm the monument.”
The new entry limits will be implemented on a trial basis from 4 September and will come permanently into effect from 1 April 2024, the minister said. There will be no limit on how long visits may last, although Mendoni said people who come with organised tours or from cruise ships – who account for about 50 per cent of the daily visitor count – spend an average 45 minutes at the site.
Different numbers of visitors will be allowed in hourly during the site’s 8am–8pm opening hours. Half of the Acropolis’ foot traffic currently arrives between 8am and noon, Mendoni said. Under the new system, 3,000 people will be granted access from 8–9am, 2,000 during the next hour, and the numbers will vary during the rest of the day.
“The measure will address the need to protect the monument, which is the main thing for us, as well as [improving] visitors’ experience of the site,” she added.
Similar caps will be imposed for other popular archaeological sites, Mendoni said. The decision for the Acropolis followed consultations with tour and cruise operators, and was delayed due to Greece’s 25 June general election, she added.
More than 3 million people visited the site last year, according to Greece’s statistical authority.
Additional reporting by Associated Press.