Greece caps Acropolis tourists at 20,000 a day to combat overtourism

The Acropolis is limiting visitors  (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The Acropolis is limiting visitors (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Starting this week, visitor numbers to the famed Acropolis in Athens, Greece are being capped at 20,000 per day.

The move is aimed at combating overtourism, which saw the ancient Greek monument previously hosting up to 23,000 daily tourists.

These new entry limits came into effect on 4 September 2023 for a trial period, before they will permanently come into effect from 1 April 2024, according to the country’s culture minister, Lina Mendoni.

“That’s a huge number,” she previously told Real FM radio network of the number of visitors to the Acropolis before the new rules were introduced.

“Obviously tourism is desirable for the country, for all of us. But we must work out how excessive tourism won’t harm the monument.”

She added: “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.”

Plans have been discussed to put similar caps in place at other popular attractions and historical sites from April next year.

Limitations will vary depending on the time, as most people who visit the Acropolis do so before midday.

Between 8-9am, 3,000 people will be allowed to enter the Unesco World Heritage Site. Some 2,000 visitors can gain entry between 9-10am, with caps then changing from hour to hour until the complex closes at 8pm.

Visitors will have to book a time slot in advance, using the official Acropolis website.

It’s not the only destination to try to better manage overtourism through capping visitor numbers.

The Italian tourist region of Trentino Alto Adige has introduced rules limiting the number of overnight guests to 2019 levels; no more guest houses, Airbnbs or hotels are allowed to open unless an existing one closes down.

The minister for tourism, Arnold Schuler, told CNN that the region has “reached the limit” of how many visitors it can handle.

Access to the Alpe di Siusi, a huge Alpine meadow in the shadow of the mountains, has also been restricted, with no access to private vehicles between 9am and 5pm. Visitors will only be able to access the meadow via public transport.

Meanwhile, one of Japan’s most spectacular islands has introducing a cap on visitor numbers in an effort to protect an endangered indigenous wild cat.

As of April 2023, no more than 1,200 tourists a day are able to travel to Iriomote, an island in the southern prefecture of Okinawa known as the “Galapagos of the East”.