Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Physical and Political Map

Physical vs Political Map

The ancient Babylonians and Greeks were the earliest people to have practiced cartography or the art and science of making maps. Maps found in ancient sites have provided information about the ancient world and its inhabitants.
Maps are designed to represent an area, to provide information about its geography in a manner by which it is understood by all people despite language and cultural differences. There are several types of maps:

Topographic maps which show an area’s elevation and shape.
Road maps which show roads, highways, airports, and an area’s points of interest.
Climate maps which show an area’s climate and precipitation.
Economic maps which show an area’s natural resources.
Physical maps which show an area’s physical features.
Political maps which show an area’s boundaries and major cities

Both political and physical maps are sometimes included in one map. Each feature is usually distinguished by different colors especially the features on a physical map. Mountains are colored brown, bodies of water are colored blue, and forests are colored green.

Physical maps illustrate land forms and bodies of water in addition to an area’s terrain. Their main purpose is to provide information about an area’s geography; where its mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, roads, cities, buildings, and other features are located. They are very useful to mountaineers and pilots as well as students of geography.

Political maps, on the other hand, illustrate borders between cities and countries as well as its roads and population. They are very handy to travelers especially if they are visiting other countries. It clearly indicates borders between cities and countries including each division and subdivision of the continents and the world.

While some features of a physical map may be raised, as in the case of mountains, or dipped, as in the case of valleys and canyons, political maps are flat and do not have any raised or dipped illustrations since their main purpose is to indicate the borders between countries or cities.

Although maps provide information about the world, they cannot be considered real descriptions of the actual world since they can be subject to errors and have limited scopes. Still, they are very important parts of man’s everyday life.


1.A physical map shows the physical features of an area while a political map shows the boundaries between areas.
2.A physical map illustrates the land forms and bodies of water of an area as well as its terrain and elevation while a political map illustrates the roads, population, cities, countries, and their boundaries.
3.A physical map contains raised or dipped illustrations to depict mountains and valleys and other uneven features of an area while a political map does not contain these features but instead it is flat.
4.While both physical and political maps are useful to students of geography, physical maps are even more useful to navigators especially pilots. Political maps are more useful to people who like to travel to other places like tourists and businessmen.

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