Stretching 2,400 km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the Atlas Mountains are a trekker’s paradise, arcing southwards from the Mediterranean coast and dramatically separating the ocean and from the vast Sahara desert. The Berbers call the Atlas Mountains "Idraren Draren" (Mountains of Mountains).
The Atlas mountains contain many fertile valleys, since the high peaks force the clouds to give away large quantities of rainfall. While there were many forests in the Atlas earlier, much of this has been exploited, and the cedar, once very common, are almost totally gone. But there are still many unexploited resources of the mountains and there are mineral deposits of gold, silver, lead, zinc, iron, manganese, antimony, phosphates and petroleum. Many millions of people live in the Atlas Mountains, almost all of them counting themselves as Berbers, except in Tunisia, where the locals regard themselves as Arabs.
Morocco has the Middle (Moyen) Atlas in the north, the High (Haut) Atlas in the centre and the Anti Atlas mountains in the south. The High Atlas is the highest, with Toubkal Mountain stretching to 4,165m. Anti Atlas does not reach higher than 2531m at the most, but still has some of the most rugged landscape. The Middle Atlas reaches 3,350m. The ranges are incredible areas of wilderness and beauty. As well as offering superb and breathtaking scenery whilst driving from one part of Morocco to another, the Atlas Mountains have some wonderful hotels and 'retreats' to entice visitors away from the cities and coasts.
The Atlas Mountains separate the northern moist Mediterranean climate from the arid south. Northward the mountains drop steeply, while southward they slope gradually into the hot, dry Sahara, which stretches for over a thousand miles. From the ancient city of Marrakech, the Atlas skyline stretches across the horizon, creating a backdrop of inspiring beauty. Jebel Toubkal, North Africa's highest mountain, is only 50 miles south of Marrakech. Despite a scarcity of roads, most of the major mountains are easily accessible. The approach to the mountains is short, and there are mountain huts, good trails and mules to carry gear.
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