Greek authorities are capping visitor numbers to the Acropolis from September 2023, to preserve the monument for future generations.
Revealing just how many visitors the UNESCO World Heritage is coping with (23,000 per day) Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told Greek radio station Real FM last week that the daily limit would reduce that figure by 3,000. For comparison, Paris’s Eiffel Tower peaks averages between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors per day.
The ancient “high point” of Athens, the Acropolis includes the Parthenon or Temple of Athena, built on an outcrop of schist and limestone rising 150m above sea level. These current ruins were mostly constructed in the 5th century BCE by General Pericles. The site was already a tourist attraction by the 2nd century AD. UNESCO has described the ensemble as “the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world.”
Managing tourist numbers and the impact of carbon emissions they cause, while continuing to benefit from the money they bring to the economy is an ongoing issue for Greece and other destinations.
Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis effectively performed a publicity stunt on British TV, countering the negative image created by wildfires on Rhodes by offering free vacations to those whose vacations were cut short in July. The Acropolis too was closed for the hottest hours of the day earlier in the summer as Greece fought wildfires across its mainland and islands.
Mendoni noted that part of the overtourism problem at the Acropolis is that though the site is open 12 hours a day, from 8 am to 8 pm, more than half of the daily 23,000 visitors choose to arrive before midday, creating bottlenecks and overcrowding.
That creates unpleasant conditions for the site, the visitors and the staff who are trying to accommodate this high volume of people,” she explained.Lina Mendoni, Culture Minister of Greece
To avoid congestion and instead spread visitor numbers across the day, hourly limits will be introduced as well as the daily cap.
The new approach to visitor management will be given a trial run from Monday 4 September 2023, according to state broadcaster ERT. If successful, the restrictions will go ahead from the start of the new season next April.
In addition to the Acropolis limits, similar restrictions will be introduced at other ancient archaeological attractions that function on an electronic entry ticket basis. It’s thought this will affect between 90 and 95% of visitors to Greek sites.