Visitors may be flocking to Europe this summer, but the number of people who can visit Greece’s most famous archaeological site will soon be capped at 20,000 per day.
On Wednesday, the Greek government announced that visits to the Acropolis in Athens will be limited to that quota next month, and subject to hourly entry limits based on the time of day.
According to the Associated Press, Greek culture minister Lina Mendoni said the new controls are needed to prevent bottlenecks and overcrowding. The monument complex has seen as many as 23,000 people per day coming to the UNESCO World Heritage site, most of them as part of large groups arriving before noon.
“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,” Mendoni told the Associated Press.
Mendoni called it a “huge number” 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 culture minister said a trial basis for the new entry limits will begin September 4 and the limits will become permanent April 1, 2024. While there is no limit on the length of time visitors can spend at the UNESCO World Heritage site, Mendoni noted that people participating in tour groups and cruise ship excursions account for about half the daily visitors. These visitors, she said, spend an average of 45 minutes at the Acropolis.
Quotas for visitors will vary during the hours the Acropolis is open to the public (8 am to 8 pm). With approximately half the site’s foot traffic arriving between 8 am and noon, 3,000 people will be granted access during the first hour, 2,000 during the second, and varying volumes the rest of the day.
Climate change is also a growing concern. While more than 3 million people visited the Acropolis last year, and Greece’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism to its ancient sites, authorities still closed access to multiple popular attractions last month to protect tourists from an “unprecedented heat wave.” Temperatures reached 118°F (48°C), prompting the distribution of 30,000 bottles of water and the creating of shaded areas at the Golden Age temples.