Atlas mountains Morocco

The Atlas (in Berber: ⵉⴷⵔⴰⵔⵏ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵟⵍⴰⵙ, idraren n waṭlas; in Arabic: جبال الأطلس, jibāl al-aṭlas) is a mountain range in North Africa, peaking at 4,167 meters above sea level in Jebel Toubkal, Morocco. It extends over three countries: Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Probably it is the Atlas mountains in Morocco the most known as the highest peaks are in Morocco.

Where are the Atlas Mountains? Atlas mountains location

The Atlas is 2,500 kilometers long along a west-southwest to east-northeast axis, from Morocco to Tunisia through northern Algeria. It forms a barrier between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara. Below you can see the Atlas mountains on the Africa map.

Atlas mountains on Africa map
Atlas mountains on Africa map

The Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Location

In Morocco the Atlas range can be divided in 3 different regions: Anti-AtlasHigh Atlas and Middle Atlas (Morocco). Appart from this Morocco the Rif mountains in the North, these are not part of the Atlas mountains. You can see the Atlas mountains location on a Morocco map below.

Atlas mountains on Morocco map
Atlas mountains on Morocco map

Atlas mountains in Morocco. The different regions

1- The High Atlas

This mountainous massif is the highest in North Africa, it stretches over 700km, and culminates at 4 167m with Mount Toubkal. It is the massif that attracts the most visitors, firstly because it is very close to Marrakech, and secondly because it is possible to do many sports activities.

Among the wonders to be discovered in the High Atlas Massif, there are already Mount Toubkal (4 167m) and Mount MGoun (4 071m). There are also the valleys of Ourika and Aït Oucheg, with their typical small Berber villages and terraced crops.

In terms of fauna, there are several species of the cat family: the caracal lynx and the Berber leopard but are very rare.

You can mainly see weasels, foxes, jackals, wild boars, squirrels and even monkeys.

You will also be able to observe many birds of prey, such as the ferocious buzzard, the booted eagle, the circaet, the sparrowhawk, the crècerelle, the peregrine falcon and even the golden eagle.

In the High Atlas, you can also admire the highest waterfalls in Morocco, the waterfalls of Ouzoud, in the small Berber village of the same name.

You can also ski ! And yes, the Oukaïmeden is the only ski resort in Morocco, and will allow you to go down a few slopes if the weather permits it

Finally you will find the Jbel Saghro, a volcanic massif with lunar landscapes that dominates the famous Dades Gorge and the Draa Valley.

the atlas-mountains-morocco
High Atlas mountains Morocco

Main Atlas peaks (in High Atlas Morocco)

Djebel Toubkal, 4,167 meters
Djebel Ouanoukrim, 4,089 meters
Ighil M’Goun, 4,071 meters
Afella, 4,043 meters
Djebel n’Tarourt, 4,001 meters

2- The Middle Atlas (Morocco)

The Middle Atlas is located north of the High Atlas and south of the Rif, and extends over about 350km. It is therefore the massif to visit if you stay in the cities of Fez, Meknes or Beni Mellal.

It is a massif composed of limestone rocks and volcanic plateaus, which hides small jewels.
Among the hidden treasures of the Middle Atlas is the Ifrane National Park, a park whose landscapes are the most representative of Morocco. One can practice hiking or fishing there.

The city of Ifrane is also part of the curiosities of the country because with its architecture with pointed roofs and its frequent snowfalls in winter, it looks like a small Swiss village !

3- The anti Atlas

Last and oldest mountain range of Morocco, the Anti-Atlas is the most southern of the atlas massifs. It is an old eroded and desert massif on the edge of the Sahara. It extends eastward to Jbel Saghro which forms a transition with the High Atlas.

The Anti-Atlas Massif is much less known by travelers and will allow you to discover a more authentic and more secret Morocco. The city of Taroudant, located 80 km from Agadir in the Souss region, is a small picturesque town, protected by beautiful ochre-colored ramparts that are almost worth the trip alone. It is nicknamed the little Marrakech

The village of Taliouine is famous for its exceptional saffron and its hikes in the Jbel Siroua massif. The pink city of Tafraoute is nestled in a pink granite cirque, and will delight all geology and hiking enthusiasts! Asgaour village Ameln valley near Tafraoute Morocco

Topography of Atlas Mountains beyond Morocco

In Algeria, the Atlas consists of two long mountain ranges, from west to east, separated by high plateaus between 900 and 1200 meters above sea level and vast depressions (sebkha) generally occupied by salt lakes (chott).

In the north, along the Mediterranean Sea, the Tellian Atlas stretches over 1,500 kilometers, from the Moroccan border where it extends the Middle Atlas to the Tunisian border.

In the south, in the prolongation of the High Atlas, the Saharan Atlas forms a rampart at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters facing the desert. Although arid, the mountains are more fertile than the salty high plateaus to the north and the Sahara to the south. This mountainous chain is extended to the east by the Aurès, which culminates at 2,328 meters of altitude at the Jebel Chelia, then to Tunisia by the Tunisian ridge.

Atlas mountains on Morocco. About the name

Atlas is the name of a deity from the Libyan (Berber) and Greek mythologies, once revered by Berbers and Greeks. According to the Greek myth, the Titan (giant) Atlas is condemned by Zeus to support on his shoulders the celestial vault: tlaô indeed means “to carry”, “to support” in ancient Greek. The mountains thus bear his name, because it is in these places that he was supposed to have carried out his exploit, near the garden of the Hesperides, at the western end of the known world. It is these mountains that gave his name to the Atlantic Ocean2, because it is located beyond the Atlas Mountains.

It may also be a combination of the two words atl and ass which means “hides day”.

However, the word Atlas would also be to be related to the Berber word assalas (or aslas, from the verb selli, “to carry, to support, to sling”) which means “beam “3 , especially the one supporting the roof. In fact, the name Atlas is rather of local origin.

Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Activities

1. Hiking to discover the moroccan Atlas Mountains

The hikes and treks in this ancient massif are numerous, very numerous! This activity is probably the best to discover the Atlas Mountains. Among the several hikes, some easy and others more difficult, but all exceptional. Generally, they are rather well marked and indicated. Here are some of them:

The Gorges of Tislit: located between Taznakht and Taliouine in the Anti-Atlas, this hiking circuit plunges you into a unique site in the world, with its volcanic peaks, its changing colors and its peaceful river.

Lake Ifni: also accessible from Imlil, it presents spectacular scenery. The hike presents a medium difficulty.

The Dades Gorges and the Valley of the Roses: from easy to medium difficulty, this hiking circuit will make you discover a maze of colorful valleys, splendid gorges and pink canyons dug by the wadi M’gou.

Atlas range activities
Tizi Ntichka Pass

2. Excursions and camel rides

Not all visitors to the Atlas Mountains are accomplished hikers. Fortunately, it is possible to discover the Atlas Mountains in a different way! And one of the best is obviously an excursion or ride on camel or dromedary. From one day to several, these adventures are excellent to discover the landscapes of the Atlas Mountains smoothly. Accompanied by a guide, you will plunge into deep valleys, admire canyons and peaceful rivers, waterfalls and pools. Some even pass through stretches of desert, allowing you to appreciate its tranquility and beauty.

When they last more than a day, they frequently include typical dinners and breakfasts. Nights are also an opportunity to observe the stars without the light pollution we know in the city. All in all, these camel excursions have all the assets to seduce all types of travelers!

3. Bike tours

Just like walking, cycling is an excellent way to discover the Atlas Mountains. Numerous mountain bike trails cross the entire Moroccan Atlas Mountains. In winter, we will privilege the south of Morocco. This region will delight you with its arid mountains, its oasis valleys and its desert in mountain bike circuit. In summer, the Berber High Atlas opens up to bike hikers. You will then be able to cross high passes, follow the bed of the wadis, ride through hidden green valleys. In short, no matter the time of the year, you will find your happiness in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains!

Fortunately for budding mountain bikers, many mountain bike excursions are organized in this part of the world. Passionate guides and organizations can make you discover the most beautiful circuits and natural sites for one or more days. Of course, you can also organize your own mountain bike adventure in the Atlas Mountains.

4. The 4×4 excursions

As mentioned above, you can opt for a day trip or several day trips in the Atlas Mountains. Most of these activities take place in 4×4, sometimes including a camel ride or a walking tour. These excursions are thus ideal to combine several experiences and discover several sites of the Atlas Mountains. Some also include a passage through the Sahara. The two natural monuments are indeed side by side.

5. Quad or buggy expeditions

You wish to combine strong sensations and discovery of fantastic landscapes? Then quad or buggy excursions are made for you! Just like the 4×4 outings, many quad or buggy excursions are organized to discover the Atlas Mountains easily. Most of the outings from Marrakech follow the same itinerary. You will then discover the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, with part of the excursion in the desert.

You will travel through the Berber countryside, passing through orchards, meadows, eucalyptus forests and the desert. Against the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains will make your eyes glaze over. You will be able to admire them at each of your stops. Some guided quad expeditions even propose to drink tea in a typical house, with of course the snowy mountains as companions. In addition to the Berber villages, most of the excursions make a detour by the magnificent lake Takerkoust.

6. Flying over the Atlas Mountains in a hot-air balloom

If the Atlas Mountains are ideally discovered from the ground, admiring them from the skies is certainly memorable. A flight in a hot-air balloon, but also in a plane or helicopter, offers you a different and spectacular perspective on this natural monument. Fortunately, visits of this type are quite numerous and the prices are not as high as one might think at first glance.

For example, you can opt for a one-hour hot air balloon flight from Marrakech for 200€ for example. Picked up at your hotel, you will enjoy the flight, but also a camel ride in the surrounding desert. From the skies, you will observe the Moroccan countryside, as well as the valleys and hills of the desert. As these flights often take place at dawn, the rising sun will tint the landscapes with beautiful gold, orange, red and yellow colors. No doubt that this experience will leave you with an unforgettable memory!

7. Sleeping in the Atlas Mountains

The massif is, as you know, quite vast. Thus, it is home to many villages and towns, and therefore many places to stay. Sleeping in the Atlas Mountains will allow you to multiply the visits, on foot, by bicycle or by other means in the mountains. But above all, you will be able to enjoy its unique atmosphere, its landscapes and its serenity.


Morocco sahara


Our most popular Morocco Sahara Tours . The trip from Marrakech is rich in scenery and includes an unforgettable stay in a Desert Camp.

desert camp


A great experience starting from Fes including camel trekking and at least one night in a tented desert camp in the Merzouga Desert.



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