With every passing day, my Facebook feed becomes increasingly saturated with all kinds of maps, illustrating such things as beer- or coffee-drinking trends, the number of Waffle Houses per capita, and major hipster hotspots around the globe. But, frankly, the maps being dumped on me via social media are getting old. Either I’ve seen them too many times, or they’re all just slight variations on the exact same theme. I crave more information.
From handmade and hand-drawn maps, to interactive online maps, to plots of some of the most obscure data that took decades to collect, here are 33 insanely detailed maps of the world and its constituent parts.
1. Interactive map of the world’s most popular biking routes
Holy hell is this insanely detailed. It goes all the way to street level. Culled from 77,688,848 rides, 19,660,163 runs, and apparently 220 billion total data points, this is the most thorough summary of everywhere everyone bikes on the globe.
2. Major running routes in well-known cities
From Nathan Yau, who mapped these: “If there’s one quick (and expected) takeaway, it’s that people like to run by the water and in parks, probably to get away from cars and the scenery. In the smaller inland cities, there seem to be a few high-traffic roads with less running elsewhere.”
3. Magnetic anomalies
Yes, this map looks a bit like a clown threw up on the notebook you were doing acid doodles in, and yes, what it actually represents is equally trippy. This map, with the continents and fault lines, summarizes all the magnetic anomaly data taken over the past five decades. What does it mean? I don’t know…but look at the colors.
4. Most photographed places
One thing’s for damn sure — Europe loves to be photographed.
5. Cut-paper city
Karen O’Leary combines art and cartography to reimagine modern maps of city streets as intricate cutouts. Her works are also available for sale at her Etsy store.
Hand drawn by Stephen Walker for his 2012 exhibition “London Subterranean,” this map includes such details as “squirrel feeders” and “men in silly hats.”
7. Victoria Peak
This incredibly detailed 3D topographic map of Victoria Peak was carved into a roll of duct tape by Takahiro Iwasaki. He also makes scale models of phone lines and Ferris wheels out of string and is a serious contender for the “most patient person on the planet” award.
Derived from real-time wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database, these manifestations of wind patterns across the US are as fascinating as they are beautiful.
9. Geotagged tweets
These maps, recording every geotagged tweet since 2009, indicate where people love them some social media.
10. Baseball fandom in the US
Demonstrating the distribution of fandom for “America’s favorite pastime,” this interactive map shows quite clearly that a team’s fans are spread more randomly than just across state lines.
Color coded by age, this interactive map shows Portland and the surrounding areas but illustrates the growth, development, and architectural history of the region.
This map features the stomping grounds of a myriad of famous, infamous, and lesser-known characters throughout the realm of fiction, in the very real London.
13. The world at night
Created from the overlaying of many images of cities captured at night, these captivating maps illustrate the fires of civilization after dark. Put your guesses for which cities / regions are being depicted in the comments!
14. Buddhism world map
Hand drawn in 1710, this map, titled “Nansenbushã bankoku shoka no zu” (the world map of Buddhism) originated in Kyoto. Possibly my favorite map on this list, it’s not only a snapshot of the world according to the Japanese in the 1700s, it’s a serious artifact and work of art.
15. World flight patterns
An update of the standard view map circulating the blogosphere, this reimagining also by Michael Markieta allows us to look at the same data from a different, equally global perspective in the third dimension.
16. Global seafloor topography
71% of our planet is underwater, much of which goes too deep to be visible from the surface. This map blacks out the areas of land on the globe and shows what the seafloor would look like sans-ocean.
17. Frightening income map of the US
Broken up by county, this interactive map demonstrates how much you’d need to make an hour for an average 40-hour workweek, 52 weeks a year, to afford a decent one-bedroom apartment in the area. On the one hand, I’m not making $14.88 in my beloved Multnomah County in Oregon, but I still live pretty comfortably. On the other hand, there go my dreams of southern California beaches.
18. Airline flights
This animated map illustrates every flight that occurs in a 24-hour period and is both incredibly mesmerizing and informative. While it doesn’t surprise me as much that the major hotspots include Europe and the US, living in the US, it does surprise me that the entire US sees virtually the same amount of traffic during peak hours.
19. World tweets
Okay, full disclosure, this map has so much detail it crashes my computer every time I open it, so I haven’t been able to scrutinize it as much as I’d like. This brightly colored map of the world shows all the tweets posted between October 23 and November 30, 2012. A critical distinction between this and the previously mentioned tweet map: This one is colored by the language the tweets were made in.
20. Wonky-looking world
While at first glance this map resembles those weirdly proportioned maps with the size of the countries adjusted for population or wealth distribution, this one represents the world with the country size adjusted based on the number of indigenous languages that originated there. With approximately 3,000 native languages, Africa is the centerpiece of this map, and then there’s everyone else.
21. French kissing
I’ve never kissed friends upon greeting them (I’m barely a hugger), so when I saw that some regions of France kiss up to five times as a greeting, I could think of only one thing: I wonder how quickly a cold spreads in Corsica.
22. Language map of Africa
The perfect complement to the world indigenous language map, this map shows the breakdown of indigenous languages in Africa. Grouped by color (as defined by the key in the lower left of the map), dialects or sub-languages are represented by a different shade.
Kicking it old school once again, this hand-drawn gem is the earliest detailed map of Scandinavia. Known as the Carta Marina, this 16th-century map is attributed to cartographer Olaus Magnus.
24. Hand-drawn map of Italy
Yes, there’s an awful lot of information in this map. So much that it looks like a mess by modern cartography standards. But, considering it’s circa 1891 and completely hand drawn for Stieler’s Hand-Atlas, it deserves to be on this list (perhaps more than most).
25. World population and wealth distribution
Yet another way to visualize the wealth and population disparity around the world, each dot represents a population — the brighter the dot, the more people. Admittedly a little US-centric (given that the cutoffs for the income brackets are in USD), the map uses different colored dots to represent the income bracket that population falls into.
26. Ethnicity division in Illinois
It’s sometimes refreshing to zoom in from the macro scale of the globe and peek at the results of a single city, in this case, Chicago and the surrounding areas in Illinois. Culling data from 2000, this map represents population distribution (25 people per dot) based on location and colored by their self-identified race/ethnicity. While it may be unsurprising to some, the polarization of sub-city-regions by ethnic group is something I find truly unbelievable. I couldn’t find the “Japanese neighborhood” in Portland if I wanted to (which is less a statement about Portland and more about my inability to find things).
27. Indian homes with toilets
I never thought I could get culture shock without having to even visit a place, but the data on this map totally rocked my world. Based on data from not that long ago, it demonstrates that a massive portion of India lives without a household toilet.
28. Wait for it
At first glance, this sure looks like that map of air travel routes. Don’t be fooled; the truth is way cooler. Ranging from 2005–2009, this map shows all the scientific collaborations around the globe. This one image explains the exponential advances in science we witnessed over those four years, through the collaborations pictured.
29. Tropical cyclone paths
Though it may look like a bit of an MS Paint accident, this map illustrates the path of every tropical cyclone, storm, and hurricane around the world, from 1842-2013. That’s a hefty chunk of storm history.
Another fascinating regional map of languages, this one made by Steve Huffman chronicles the many languages and language families of China. Color signifies a language group or family and shade signifies a difference in sub-language or dialect. The key makes it clear just how many influences have gone into the very diverse languages that until recently I only knew as “Chinese.”
31. Human impact on the biosphere
This map is pretty straightforward, no complex colors and subdivisions between subdivisions. The red on the map is every place where humankind’s had a significant impact on the biosphere and ecology of the region. Apparently, only the deserts and tundras are safe.
32. Major fires in the US
Displaying every major fire in the US since 2001, the map exhibits the data in units of nuclear power-plant output. I did a double take. Each nuclear power plant has a summertime output of 1,000 megawatts, and the brightest dots on the map represent three power plants’ worth of output. What the hell happened in Southern California?!
33. Car-crash map of the UK
This map shows the location of all 2.4 million road crashes in the UK from 1999–2010. Each accident is represented as a point of light. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the major cities are the epicenters of these car accidents. What was surprising was the sheer concentration of the accidents in the southern UK. I get it, the population is concentrated largely in the south, but it honestly looks like half the country just doesn’t exist.
34. 3D map of Waffle Houses in the US
Y’know, just in case you were curious.