People walking a path on a mountain
A father transmitting mountain love to his daughter through mountain tourism, a market that attracts around 15 to 20 percent of global tourism.
Photo:©Rodica AVRAMESCU/Mountain Partnership

Sustainable mountain tourism

The theme of this year's International Mountain Day (IMD) on 11 December will be sustainable mountain tourism.

Sustainable tourism in mountains can contribute to creating additional and alternative livelihood options and promoting poverty alleviation, social inclusion, as well as landscape and biodiversity conservation. It is a way to preserve the natural, cultural and spiritual heritage, to promote local crafts and high value products, and celebrate many traditional practices such as local festivals.

Mountain tourism attracts around 15 to 20 percent of global tourism. Tourism, however, is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting economies, livelihoods, public services and opportunities on all continents. In mountains, the restrictions of the pandemic have further compounded the vulnerabilities of mountain communities.

This crisis can be seen as an opportunity to rethink mountain tourism and its impact on natural resources and livelihoods, to manage it better, and to harness it towards a more resilient, green and inclusive future.

In the coming months, FAO, leading UN agency for this International Day, will prepare communication materials in all six UN languages, which will be available on their website. Hard copies will be available upon request.

While sustainable mountain tourism is the suggested theme for 2021, countries, communities and organizations are welcome to celebrate IMD through a theme that is more relevant to them.

Celebrate this International Day 2021 with your community and friends preparing an event or joining the conversation on social media using the hashtag #MountainsMatter. Pass on some of the key messages, or share about the biodiversity in the mountains near you, or a photo of your favorite mountain.

Natural jewels we should treasure

Mountains are home to 15% of the world´s population and host about half of the world's biodiversity hotspots. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development and is part of Goal 15 of the SDGs.

Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from climate change and overexploitation. As the global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The rising temperatures also mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people.

This problem affects us all. We must reduce our carbon footprint and take care of these natural treasures.

The increasing attention to the importance of mountains led the UN to declare to 2002 the UN International Year of Mountains. The first international day was celebrated for the first time the following year, 2003.

Its roots date back to 1992, when the document “Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development” (called Chapter 13), was adopted as part of the action plan Agenda 21 of the Conference on Environment and Development.


Did you know?

  • Mountains host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and 30% of all Key Biodiversity Areas."
  • Of the 20 plant species that supply 80% of the world's food, six originated and have been diversified in mountains: maize, potatoes, barley, sorghum, tomatoes, and apples.
  • More than half of humanity relies on mountain freshwater for everyday life.

+ More info in this FAO poster


FAO invites you to promote your event through its website.

Register your event and check out the events around the world for 2020-2021.




Lake Agoulmime or "Tamda u Gulmim" is located at an altitude of 1,700 meters to the west of the Djurdjura mountain range. Algeria. ©Gribi Mohammed

This FAO website highlights the importance of sustainable mountain tourism. It can help you to create awareness and take action for bringing positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world. Celebrate mountain day in the best way possible! Visit a mountain!

Related Observances

There are many international days related to the mountains. Discover the interaction between this natural resource and other issues, such as climate change, flora, fauna and human beings. We encourage you to visit Environment Day, Water Day, Wildlife Day, or Indigenous Peoples Day.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.