From September, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Athens will admit no more than 20,000 visitors a day, according to the country’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni.
In an interview with Greek radio station Real FM on Wednesday, Mendoni said the change is being introduced as a trial following research by the government’s Hellenic Organization of Cultural Resources Development.
She said that up to 23,000 people currently visit the site every day.
“That is a huge number,” she told the interviewer. “Tourism is obviously desirable for the country and for all of us, but we must work out how overtourism won’t harm the monument.”
Built on a rocky hill in the fifth century BC, the ancient citadel is home to a collection of historic ruins, buildings and artifacts – the most famous being the Parthenon temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena.
The Acropolis and its monuments “form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world,” according to UNESCO.
The site is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but half of the visitors tend to arrive in the morning, between 8 a.m. and midday, Mendoni said.
“That creates unpleasant conditions for the site, the visitors and the staff who are trying to accommodate this high volume of people,” she added.
Mendoni said the government plans to create hourly visitor limits to avoid bottlenecks.
“For example, 3,000 people will be granted access from 8 to 9 a.m. local, 2,000 during the next hour, 9 a.m.-10 a.m.,” she said.
The restriction on numbers will vary throughout the day but will be in place from the time the site opens until it shuts.
Mendoni said that the measure will allow the government to protect the monument and enhance the overall experience for visitors.
She said the new system will be trialed from early September, with state broadcaster ERT reporting that it will begin on Monday, September 4. The restrictions will then be enforced from April 1, ahead of the 2024 summer season, Mendoni confirmed.
From April 1, the new system will also apply to other archaeological sites that operate with electronic tickets, accounting for 90-95% of visitors to Greek sites.
Last month, the Greek authorities closed the Acropolis and other archaeological sites for several hours during the hottest part of the day as the country battled a deadly heatwave.