Travelers can ditch the crowds and enjoy a private guided tour of the Acropolis this spring—but the exclusive experience will come with a high price tag.
Starting April 1, Greece will begin conducting off-hours tours of the famous landmark in Athens for €5,000 ($5,500) per group, reports the Associated Press (AP).
A total of four groups—each with up to five people—will be allowed to visit the Acropolis every day as part of the new offering. Individuals could also take the tour on their own if they are willing and able to cover the entire group fee.
Certified guides will lead the tours, which will last up to two hours. They are scheduled to take place from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. or from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. while the site is closed to the general public.
Money generated by the experience will be “reinvested in cultural projects and monuments,” Nikoletta Divari-Valakou, an official with Greece’s Culture Ministry, tells the AP.
“There is demand; people have been asking for it,” she adds. “It won’t harm the archaeological site. Indeed, it will contribute to its better promotion.”
If the Acropolis initiative is successful, the government may expand it to other popular tourist attractions.
The new tours are part of Greece’s larger plan to manage overtourism at its many popular archaeological sites and museums. Last year, the government placed a cap on the number of visitors who could enter the Acropolis per hour and implemented a timed-entry reservation system—the landmark’s first-ever crowd control restrictions. A trial of these measures began in September but could become permanent this April.
Next year, the government plans to raise the price of general admission Acropolis tickets from €20 to €30. Ticket prices at other tourist attractions will also increase, and the country plans to do away with discounted fees during the winter months, per the Greek Reporter’s Tasos Kokkinidis.
Built during the fifth century B.C.E., the Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts millions of visitors each year. Last summer, up to 23,000 people visited the ancient site—which includes the Parthenon—each day.
“Tourist visitation on the whole just puts wear and tear on these places,” said Ko Koens, a new urban tourism expert at Inholland University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, to the New York Times’ Niki Kitsantonis and Isabella Kwai last year.
Elsewhere in Europe, other destinations are also grappling with overtourism. Italy hopes to encourage more tourists to travel by train, while Amsterdam banned cruise ships from docking in the city center. Venice also plans to start charging some visitors a fee on high-traffic days beginning this year.