Atlas Mountain Range

THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS ARE THE TALLEST MOUNTAINs IN North Africa extEnding from THe atlantic port of agadir through algeria to the tunisian capital, tunis.

The Atlas Mountains are a mountain range in the Maghreb. It extends around 2,500 km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia separating the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. The Berber words for mountain adrar and adras are cognates with the toponym Atlas.

The Atlas Mountains have many subranges like Anti-Atlas in the Southwest Morocco about 500 km long with the Djebel Siroua, a massif of volcanic origin with the highest summit of the range at 3,304 m (10,839 ft). The High Atlas extends from The Atlantic coast in the west to the Moroccan-Algerian border in the east and hosts the highest summit Toubkal at 4,167 m (13,671 ft) and the second highest Ighil m’Goun at 4,071 m (13,356 ft). The Middle Atlas is the northernmost Moroccan Atlas range with a summit like Jbel Bou Naceur 3340 m (10,389 ft). The Saharan Atlas is in Algeria and represents eastern part of the Atlas Range and the north edge of the Sahara Desert. The 2,236 m (7,336 ft) high Djebel Aissa is the highest peak. The Tell Atlas runs north to Saharan Atlas and close to the coast spreading over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) in length. South to this range is The Hauts Plaines, a steppe-like natural region. The Aurès Mountains of Algeria and Tunisia are the farthest eastern parts of The Atlas mountain range.

 Berber Village & Mount Toubkal, Morocco

Berber Village & Mount Toubkal, Morocco

On the heights of Ouarzazate city, the capital of the south-central Morocco, the Draa Valley penetrates the massif. The Draa is Morocco’s longest river at 1100 kilometres (680 mi), mostly populated by Berber people who live in small villages and cultivate the plains of the Ourika Valley. Ourika River is another river that flows in High Atlas.

One of the highest peaks in Northern Africa is Imouzzer, a 4000-meter summit, in the Moroccan Central High Atlas. It’s part of the Toubkal Massif, and it’s very close to the highest mountain in Northern Africa, Jbel Toubkal with an altitude of 4167 m (13,671 ft). Imouzzer offers the stunning views especially towards north and the villages of Aroumd 1945m (6381 ft) and Imlil 1740m (5708 ft), the outset for many ascents of surrounding peaks like Jbel Toubkal, Afella (4043m), Biguinnoussene (4002m).

The first ascent by Europeans was on 12 June 1923 by the Marquis de Segonzac, Vincent Berger and Hubert Dolbeau, but the mountain may have been climbed before that date.

The Atlas are rich in natural resources like deposits of iron ore, lead ore, copper, silver, mercury, rock salt, phosphate, marble, anthracite coal and natural gas among other resources.

The Atlas Mountains have very diverse flora and fauna. Thanks to the varied climatic conditions the wildlife differs a lot. The Middle Atlas experience more rain than the other ranges, making it important for biodiversity and a home of Barbary macaque. Many animals like The Atlas bear, Barbary lion, North African elephant, North African aurochs are extinct while Barbary macaque, Barbary leopard, Barbary stag, Barbary sheep are still present in the wilderness. Areas of higer rainfall  back plants like The Atlas cedar, Algerian oak, European black pine, while forests with lower rain fall are thinner and the highest peaks are mostly dry.

CLIMBING THE Atlas MOUNTAINS

Before climbing there are some challenging steps one has to beat like escaping the chaotic city of Marrakesh meaning finding one’s way through a crowd and taking about hour and a half long turbulrent ride by car to Asni, and then to Imlil 1740m (5708 ft). Maybe the best way to do it is to just arrange a taxi with the hotel you are staying in. From Imlil 6 to 8 hours long walking tour will get you to the first stop in one of the two Toubkal Refuges at 3207m (10,521 ft). After spending the night in one of the beautiful refuges and decide to climb Imouzzer, take the North Cwm route - Ikhibi Nord (T3+) and reach the saddle which connects Imouzzer with Toubkal. If you head up the south face of Imouzzer, you’ll arrive at the place from which a rocky ridge starts. If you decide to climb the summit of Jbel Toubkal, take the South Cwm route (T3+) up to the summit.

Jebel Saghro, a continuation of the Anti Atlas, offers a less demanding ascent to its highest peak Amalou n’Mansour at 2712m (8897ft).

M’Goun Massif, 4701m (15423 ft), in the Central High Atlas doesn’t have to be as demanding if you avoid the summit itself.  The valleys of the Ait Bougmez and the Tessaout are suitable for exploring the lower slopes.

Jebel Sirwa, a 3340-metre high volcanic mountain in the Anti-Atlas or Rif Mountains, great for laid-back trekkers, are also tempting.

During autumn, winter and spring months, the mountains are usually covered with snow. During the summer months, the temperatures are above freezing, and it can actually get very hot, especially in the lower parts of the mountain.

What to wear?

Not having an appropriate clothes and equipment can always fire up the feeling of insecurity, the only feeling you don’t need when having a goal like climbing a 4000-meter summit, or it can spoil the pleasure you can get from the adventure. So, get ready. You need a pair of good hiking shoes (the higher the better), crampons, a rope and an ice axe recommended, warm clothing because even in summer the temperature can go below zero, while, on the other hand,  the sun is very strong, so you will need something to cover your head with.

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Hiking in THE Atlas mountains

Whether you are keen on hiking or trekking, this grand area has a lot to offer for visitors of any ages, styles and interests. So get ready for the Moroccan-style adventure suitable for those avid nature and culture explorers.

It’s a perfect way to experience the particular beauty of the Moroccan landscapes, to feel the ancient vibes of the Berber culture and tradition like mud-hut villages, mule rides or to meet the superstitious inhabitants whose lifestyle hasn’t changed for centuries, who unanimously fight “Evil Eye” and wear Fatima’s hand sign.

From cool forays into the Atlas Mountains for beginners to tackling the Africa’s hardest terrains which represent a serious challenge even for the most qualified trekkers. Horse-riding, mountain-biking, birdwatching are easily organized. The Toubkal National Park, the Ifrane National Park (also called Morocco’s Switzerland) and the Talassemtane National Park offer stunning views and walks even for family groups with the kids.

Although The Atlas Mountains attract increasing number of tourists, trekkers, hikers and gites, camping and refuges have become very common, but the trails haven’t been marked as the ones in The Alps, so many decide to take a local guide or go on an organized trek.

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