37 Atlas Mountains Facts: Geography, Tourism And More

Anamika Balouria
Jan 12, 2023 By Anamika Balouria
Originally Published on Jan 27, 2022
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath
Read Atlas mountains facts to know more about the geological development along with the tectonic boundary of Atlas mountain range.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.0 Min

The Atlas Mountains are named after the mythic hero, Atlas.

When Africa was first explored, many people had heard about an African king named 'Atlantis' who ruled over a kingdom that contained huge expanses of gold. African legends speak of another monarch who lived near the Atlas mountain range and was thought of as the 'King of Atlantis'.

Since Atlas owned a kingdom containing mountains, the name was given to the mountain range. The geography of the Atlas Mountains shapes Northern Africa into many different ecosystems, including undisturbed forests, deserts, and semi-arid coasts. The Atlas Mountains are estimated to be around 650 million years old. The Atlas Mountains are important because they support over 50 million people living in the surrounding area. The southwest section is known as the 'Anti-Atlas.' The Atlas Mountains lie between the Atlantic-Mediterranean coasts and the Sahara Desert. A variety of resources, such as water, wind, and vegetation, can be found throughout different parts of the mountain range. The Atlas Mountains act as a natural barrier for Northern Africa by blocking cold winds from Europe from entering the continent. This beneficially keeps North Africa warmer than it would be without the Atlas Mountain range.

Facts About the Atlas Mountains

The Atlas mountain range was formed when Africa collided with Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, which is why Mount Toubkal is found in Morocco, not Algeria.

  • Although there were once glaciers in North Africa, they have since melted due to climate change and only small remnants remain, such as small lakes and glacial lakes.
  • The Atlas Mountains are navigable by foot, donkey, and camel.
  • However, the range is known to be quite dangerous because of unpredictable weather conditions such as heavy rain that can turn into hail or even snow in just a short amount of time.
  • Due to their geographic location, the Atlas mountains have a variety of different ecosystems, including undisturbed forests, deserts, mountains, and even semi-arid coasts.
  • Although the Atlas Mountains are situated in Northern Africa, they form a natural barrier that blocks cold winds from Europe from entering Africa.
  • This keeps the North African region warmer than it would be if the range did not exist.

Geographical Facts About Atlas Mountains

The original formation of the Atlas mountains occurred during the late Neoproterozoic Era, about 650 million years ago.

  • Due to the African continent drifting northwards towards Europe, the mountain range was pushed upwards, causing thrusting and folding to occur, resulting in peak formations. Such geological development led to the rise of the Atlas Mountain ranges.
  • The Atlas Mountains are found throughout North Africa, stretching from the northernmost part of Africa to the Maghreb region.
  • The highest mountain peak is Mount Toubkal, which is located in Morocco, at 13,671 ft (4,167 m) among the other highest peaks or highest points of the mountain chain.
  • Morocco shares international borders with Algeria and Mauritania, making up two-thirds of the entire Atlas mountain range.
  • Tunisia and Libya each contain a small portion of the Atlas mountains.
  • During the Pleistocene Era (1,600,000 - 10,000 years ago), Europe and much of North America were covered by large expanses of ice due to climate change which influenced glaciation.
  • Although the Atlas region was once glacial in North Africa, they melted and only small remnants remain such as small glacial lakes and water sources. They are also home to artificial lakes being created to supply drinking water to small villages.
  • These lakes are created by damming tributaries of the High Atlas River and flooding natural basins.
  • When these reservoirs are full, they supply drinking water throughout Morocco's coastal plain and small villages.
  • Lalla Takerkoust is the artificial lake whose panoramic picture is adorable.
  • The southwest section is known as 'Anti-Atlas.'
  • Between the Atlantic-Mediterranean coasts and the Sahara Desert are the Atlas Mountains.
The high Atlas range, also known as the Grand Atlas, is the highest point in the Atlas mountain ranges.

Atlas Mountain Tourism Facts

The Atlas Mountains are a popular tourist destination for both local and international tourists.

  • Skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, and rock climbing are also common activities throughout the mountain range.
  • The natural beauty of the Atlas mountains is an important part of Morocco's tourism industry, which was valued at $6.4 billion in 2013.
  • The total value of the Moroccan tourism industry as a whole was estimated to be 1$2 billion dollars in that same year.
  • Tourist spots in the Atlas Mountain range include Youssef Ben Tachfine Prehistoric Cave, Ourika Valley, Lake Aguelmame Sidi Ali, Museum of Moroccan Handicrafts, and Ourika Valley Valleys.
  • The Youssef Ben Tachfine Prehistoric Cave is a prehistoric cave dating back to the Middle Paleolithic Era.
  • Lake Aguelmame Sidi Ali is a glacial lake formed from melted glaciers from the Atlas Mountains.
  • The Museum of Moroccan Handicrafts is located in the city of Meknes and displays around 800 artifacts that represent Morocco's rich history.
  • The Ourika Valley is known for its scenic beauty, with lush green forests, flowing rivers, and waterfalls.

Atlas Mountain's Wildlife

The Atlas Mountains are home to rich and diverse fauna.

  • Some of the animals that can be found throughout the Atlas Mountains include Berber red deer, the Barbary stag, mouflon (wild sheep), urial (a type of wild goat), rock hyrax (rock dassies), and Crested porcupine.
  • The Atlas Mountains' vegetation has been lost as the terrain has been cleared for cultivation; wildlife in the mountainous regions has also declined.
  • There are very few jackal species, a few ape populations such as Barbary apes at high altitudes, and a few populations of black bears throughout the oak woodlands.
  • Only the mountain peaks region of the Atlas Mountain chain might have a few more species.
  • One of the most iconic symbols associated with Morocco is the Barbary lion.
  • The Barbary lion used to roam throughout Morocco and other parts of Northern Africa but has now been almost completely extirpated as a result of extensive hunting and deforestation.
  • There is also some controversy surrounding this species, as it may or may not be extinct in authentic form.
  • Other large mammals, such as the Atlas bear and the Barbary leopard, have also been hunted to extinction.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Anamika Balouria

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

Anamika Balouria picture

Anamika BalouriaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated and enthusiastic learner, Anamika is committed to the growth and development of her team and organization. She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English from Daulat Ram University and Indira Gandhi Institute for Open Learning respectively, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Amity University, Noida. Anamika is a skilled writer and editor with a passion for continual learning and development.
Read full bio >