The oasis town of Atar, Mauritania, on the Adrar Plateau, is nearly four hundred fifty kilometers northeast of the capital Nouakchott. It's a five- to six-hour journey along the N1, a pretty well-surfaced road, through the heart of Mauritania's Sahara desert. There is one bus per day that does the Nouakchott to Atar trip.
Atar, known for its old mosque that was built in the seventeenth century, is a gateway to the ancient Moorish towns of Chinguetti and Ouadane, a further eighty-five kilometers and one hundred eight kilometers east of Atar respectively. Atar is where the transport from Nouakchott stops so, to push on further to Chinguetti and then on to Ouadane, will take a change of transport and an overnight stop in Atar.
Atar is a quiet town with a very hot desert climate all year round. What little rain does fall, falls during August and September. It does have an interesting street market and was a major stop on the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Accommodation for foreigners in Atar is extremely limited, but budget travelers will be happy to hear that the accommodation includes Atar, Mauritania hostel dorm beds (located under canvas in desert tents); your Atar, Mauritania hostel is the place to get any and all information about the surrounding area and how to move on. The few international travelers that do make it to Atar independently will get a warm welcome at a hostel in Atar, Mauritania, and lifts further into the desert to Chinguetti or up to Choum to catch the iron ore train, can be arranged here.
There are no Western-style restaurants in Atar, but you can eat at your Atar, Mauritania hostel or at one of the tiny local eateries in town serving huge portions of local food for very little money. You will certainly attract attention if you do; anyone who can speak English -- or more likely, French -- will strike up a conversation with you. While there isn't too much to see and do in Atar itself, it's an incredibly friendly place and a pleasure to wander the streets meeting the locals.
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