Anyone visiting the Greek capital of Athens just has to look up to see the ancient Acropolis looking majestic as it lords over the city from its high rocky outcrop. The citadel and its clustre of ancient remains is a big pull for tourists – so many that at times it feels overcrowded.
Worried about maintaining the integrity of the ancient Acropolis, 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 Greek 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.”
Visitor numbers will be capped from September 2023. A maximum of 20,000 each day will be able to visit, but there will be hourly entry limits.
Initially, the caps will be implemented on a trial basis and a view to making them permanent from April 1, 2024. No time limits will be considered for each visit however Mendoni noted that around 50 per cent of visits are organised tours or from cruise ships that spend an average of 45 minutes at the site.
The Acropolis is open from 8am to 8pm and the most footfall happens 8am and noon. 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.
Similar caps are planned 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.