Difference Between Political Map and Physical Map

Political Map vs Physical Map

The difference between political map and physical map stems from the purpose for which they were created. Before explaining that further, let us first see what a map is. Maps are representations of natural features and landforms on a piece of paper with greatly scaled down ratios. Maps are important as they can be used to locate a place in an unknown area and also to get directions to reach a particular point. To meet the requirements of the people, different types of maps are available in the market. Two important types of maps are the political map and the physical map. While a physical map is designed to show geographic features of an area such as mountains and rivers, a political map is one that depicts the cities, roads and borders of different countries. This is the main difference between political map and physical map, but there are other differences too that will be made clear in this article.

What is a Political Map?

Political maps show borders, cities, states, capitals, populations, the whole world, or just continents. These maps are great companions when a person is taking a trip to another country and is not aware of the routes.The scale of the map is given in the legend and can be used to locate a route to a particular place of interest in any country with the help of the political map of that country. Political maps are flat as there is no need to mention or depict mountains or water bodies’ height or depth. They can also indicate the location of major cities. Though political maps do not need to include details of every water body, usually they include significant water bodies.

Political Map

What is a Physical Map?

On the other hand, physical maps are a pictorial representation of the relief features of a particular area and more useful for students of geography. These maps contain all the land forms such as mountains, plateaus, valleys, water bodies such as rivers, streams, oceans and much, much more. The maps are useful for pilots when they are flying over valleys and mountains and also for mountaineers to get to the right direction if they suddenly feel they have lost their way. Sometimes there are physical maps that are three dimensional.

Difference Between Political Map and Physical Map

What is the difference between Political Map and Physical Map?

Maps are important pieces of information to understand about a country or a larger place. There are different types of maps devised for different purposes. Political map and physical map are two such maps with differences in the details they contain.

• Physical maps are representation of geographical features such as mountains, water bodies, deserts, and forests in a place whereas political maps help to know the borders, states, cities, roads and population of a place.

• Political maps usually mark the major cities and also the major water bodies though they do not mark every water body as physical maps do.

• Political maps are flat while physical maps are sometimes three dimensional.

• Physical maps show how a place looks like when viewed from a height and thus contains only physical features while a political map shows how the world has been separated by borders marking different countries.

• Physical maps make use of different colors to depict different relief features such as mountains in brown, water bodies in blue and forests in green. Political maps are, on the other hand, black and white in color as they just need to mark different boundaries.

• Political maps are important for charity organizations when doling out money or food during natural disasters as they can distribute things to the needs based upon demarcations of a political map.

As you can now understand political map and physical map serve different purposes. So, if you have a clear idea about why you need a map, then choosing one is not so hard.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Political map via Pixabay
  2. Physical map via Wikicommons (Public Domain)