Types of Maps: Political Maps, Physical Maps, Thematic Maps, and Topographic Maps (Especially for GATE-Geospatial 2022)

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There are several types of maps. Each show different information most maps include a compass rose, which indicates which way is north, south, east, and west. They also include a scale so you can estimate distances.

Some of the different types of maps are described below:

This Diagram Shows Four Different Types of Maps

1. Political Maps

Maps showing cities, towns and villages, and different countries and states of the world with their boundaries are called political maps. This map shows states, national boundaries, cities, capitals, roads, and other human features.

A political map does not show any topographic features. It instead focuses solely on the state and national boundary of a place. They also include the locations of cities-both large and small, depending on the detail of the map. A capital city is usually marked with a star within a circle. The maps may be black and white, or they may use color to show different countries.

This Picture Shows Political Maps

2. Physical Maps

Maps showing natural features of the earth such as mountains, plateaus, plains, rivers, oceans etc. are called physical or relief maps.

Physical maps show the natural features of the Earth. Physical maps do not contain man made features. Green is usually used at lower elevations, and orange or brown show higher elevations. For example, a physical map would be a map of what you would see if you were looking down on Earth from space.

This Picture Shows Physical Maps

3. Thematic Maps

Thematic maps can represent a variety of information including things like climate, precipitation, vegetation, elevation, population, life expectancy, etc.

Thematic maps are generally used when you are looking at a single piece of information. It could portray virtually any kind of information from average rainfall distribution, infant mortality race, population density, and membership to political organizations. Features such as terrain variations, political boundaries, and highways are normally omitted.


  • Lacking possible spatial variation within the units.
  • The boundaries of the units might be arbitrary and thus unlikely to reflect major discontinuities.
  • Consider data standardization.
This Picture Shows Thematic Maps

4. Topographic Maps

A topographic map is like a physical map in that it shows different physical landscape features. They are different however because they use contour lines instead of colors to show changes in the landscape.

Include contour lines to show the shape and elevation of an area. Lines that are close together show steep terrain, and lines that are far apart show flat terrain.

Geologists depend on topographic maps to record the types of rocks. Engineers use topographic maps when they are planning roads, building, or other human-made structures.

This Picture Shows Topographic Maps

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