CC Article 6

Political Map – A Convernient Way to Explore Geographical Location

Political Map

What do you expect to see or find when you look at a particular map? You want to know where you are or where a specific thing or place is, right? A map visually represents a portion of an area or an entire area that helps viewers find their ways and destinations- a piece of paper leading you to your destination. You must have heard about various types of maps, such as river maps, historical, topographical maps, etc., but we are here to discuss a unique map-political map.


Political maps are believed to be the most common reference maps depicting the geographical boundaries between various administrative subdivisions like states, countries, and provinces. These maps are also called “reference maps.” They also focus on different political features of other areas or places. They can be accommodating in understanding human impacts on the planet.


They represent political divisions or human-made boundaries of the continents, the world, and central geographical regions. They can vary in size and content. Some political maps display entire continents, while some show a specific area, town, or municipality. They also represent major political centers, international and national lines of communication, and strategic points.

Political Map

Due to their purpose, some political maps also represent some principal cities, roads, districts, and towns. Simply put, they display the political characteristics of a particular area. Though they do not display any topographical features, they sometimes represent some physical features like rivers, oceans, mountains, and lakes for geographical reference.

There are two types of political maps- specialized and general political maps. Specialized political maps are for treating specific political events and political problems. While available political maps are for most common uses for map readers.

What is the Purpose of these Maps?

Political Map

They represent the different democratic areas and geographical borders of the northern and southern zones of the world, including the ethnic characteristics of countries and continents from east to west. These maps show the data of states, nations, and towns as well as the layout of the bodies of water, which are displayed on the map; no doubt it is a significant source of information for the Government of a country, which is also updated on the atlas, using different colors to indicate other countries and regions.

Another unique yet helpful purpose of these maps is that they also define different aspects of railways, highways, and other network corridors that become a connecting cultural network for various parts and regions of the world.

The political maps of the nations, continents, and world are the most famous maps used in offices and classrooms. They are mostly annotated with sticker notes, push pins, maker flags, photos, and string to indicate a business location or a family journey of some important events and locations.


The Unique Features of a Political Map

Political Map

Political Map displays the features and aspects of the region the map is focused on and are helpful to understand how humans interact with specific areas. Those features are referred to as political features and may include symbolic and physical ones. An example of a symbolic feature that couldn’t be seen or touched is a country’s border. At the same time, an example of a physical feature could be a building. 

Some more examples of political features that are displayed on the map are:

  • Borders-it represents the invisible lines for marking different boundaries.
  • Cities and towns– they display the locations of cities and towns in the region.
  • Roads-they represents the road network in the given area on the map.
  • Countries-countries are the most common features in that map representing larger geographical areas.
  • Bodies of water– though they are naturally occurring bodies- are shown on political maps.
  • Small regions-depending on the map of what country it is featuring, these maps also show the boundaries of small regions of a nation.
  • Public transportation– this feature shows public transportation networks on the map, like subways, ferries, trains, and bus networks.

All these features on a political map help understand and read the map to the map reader.

Symbols of the Political Maps

Each map has different symbols and facts on them, similarly, political maps also consist of several symbols- each symbol represents a different purpose and place on the map.  Even though some political maps may differ, some symbols stay the same on all the maps.

Let’s learn the different symbols given on the political maps and their purpose and description:


Large star


The large star on the political map indicates the capital of a country or a state.


Large Circle 


Large circles on these maps represent large cities. 


Small dots


The small black dots on the political maps depict the small cities and larger towns.


The thick and solid black line 


Country borders on these maps are shown by using a thick black line which shows the dividing line.


Thin dotted line


The regional borders of the provinces, states, and municipalities are indicated through a thin dotted line.


Orange or red lines


If your political maps consist of roads, they are always indicated by orange or red lines, to assure that they promptly differ from border lines.


Blue lines


The blue lines of these maps indicate river types. The thickness of these lines depends on the size. Large water bodies are shaded with blue color.


A thin black line consisting of perpendicular marks


Railroad tracks on the map are indicated through thin black lines, which are intersected by using small perpendicular marks.

Different political maps use different symbols to indicate different things. But most of these maps use the above-given symbols.

In order to use a political map, it is essential to learn its features and certain prominent symbols. All the digital maps and compasses aside, these maps always play an impressive role in learning about different regions, places, and countries and their historical facts and interesting information.


Tips to Read and Understand a Political Map-Making it Easy for the Map Readers

Political Map

If you are interested in using political maps, you should learn how to read them properly.  The foremost thing to consider if you want to read a map is to learn how to place yourself concerning the information mentioned on the page. Whether looking at a map in a book, on a screen, or a separate map from a shop, certain aspects of the map remain the same. The direction is the main thing while reading a map-south is always at the bottom, the north is at the top, the east is always on the right side, and the west is always the left side of the map. Reading any political map is always the same.


Now that you are oriented to learn how to read a map, the following tips will help you read and understand a political map:

  • Always read the map’s title to know the map’s topic and intent.
  • Look for the map marks-they reveal the theme and purpose of the map.
  • Look at the significance of the symbols on the map.
  • Using the scale, estimate the distance between the points given on the map.
  • Use the compass rose to evaluate the directions on the maps.
  • Always scrutinize the map to get questions of the answers you are looking for and be on the right destination.

Now that you know you have learned to read and understand the political maps, you can start exploring different regions and places anytime!


Final Thoughts

Political maps are different from other types of maps as they depict governmental and administrative borders rather than physical or geographical features-they are unique in their way. Rather than representing what is actually on the ground to the map readers, it shows the abstract lines or borders that divide the states, nations, territories, areas, and towns.

This article covers all the basics about political maps, which a map reader needs to know. So you can learn from it, start your political adventure on the go, and choose the best political map for yourself that can act as your guide. 



  • What are some unique facts about these maps?

Political maps don’t show physical features on them. Instead, political maps display national and state boundaries, capital, and major cities. 

  • What is the purpose of political maps?

These maps serve the purpose of showing territorial boundaries. They are designed to provide political information to the viewers.

  • Why do you use them?

These maps help depict the governmental borders of States, countries, towns, and cities; they also show some geographical features, such as lakes, rivers, and streams.

  • Are there any other names for political maps?

They help the viewers to understand the geography of the world. These maps are also referred to as “reference maps” because they are referred to by people repeatedly as they have questions about geography.

  • What do different colors on political maps depict?

The different colors on these maps represent different places and water bodies. Blue represents water, orange or red represents cities, roads, and railways, and black shows boundaries.

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