Reference: Types of Maps
Orthophoto mapsThese maps show land features using color-enhanced photographic images which have been processed to show detail in true position. They may or may not include contours. Because imagery naturally depicts an area in a more true-to-life manner than the conventional line map, the orthophoto map provides an excellent portrayal of extensive areas of sand, marsh, or flat agricultural areas.
Physical mapsPhysical maps show the earth's landforms and bodies of water. The maps use lines, shading, tints, spot elevations, and different colors to show elevation and distinguish the mountains from the lowlands.
This kind of map often has some road, city and cultural information but mostly functions as a view of the land surface. Often these maps make very attractive framed pieces for the den or office.
Political mapsPolitical maps show boundaries that divide one political entity from another, such as townships, counties, cities, and states. Some maps emphasize the boundaries by printing the areas of each political division in different colors, for example world maps usually show each country in a different color.
A political map can be made of any area from the local county, municipal levels all the way up to the world level. In general, most maps are political with far fewer being produced as physical maps.
Relief maps: Shaded Relief and Raised ReliefRelief maps are maps that show relief data using contour lines, colors, and/or shading to evidence the elevation.
Shaded relief maps show topographic features by using shading to simulate the appearance of sunlight and shadows. Steep mountains will have dark shadows, while flat lands will have no shadows.
Raised-relief maps are three-dimensional plastic or vinyl maps portraying the physical features of a region. Raised relief maps can have as much as 2-3 inches of vertical relief, while this type of map is neat to look at they are all but impossible to ship so we cannot offer them on this site. In fact we rarely carry them in our store as we had upwards of 50% of them arrive in the "flattened relief" condition.
Road mapsMichelin in France and Gulf Oil in America produced the first road maps to encourage people to travel more, thus consuming more tires and oil. Such maps were usually free until the oil crisis of 1973, when service stations began to charge for their maps.
A road map is published primarily to assist travelers in moving from one place to another. Some road maps show only interstate highways, while others show a detailed network of roads, including the back roads. Generally, only large-scale maps - such as a topographic map, a Gem Trek map, Trails Illustrated map, or a DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer - will show unimproved roads.
Some road maps specify distances between various points on the map. Others show various cultural geography features such as colleges and universities, airports, museums, historical sights, and information to make a journey more interesting.
You will discover several publishers that have produced entire series of road maps for given regions. Examples include the Michelin series for France or the Mairs series for Germany.
Road atlases are frequently a good choice for a traveler who is going to be covering a large region. There are two main types of road atlases: state or national atlases, and city street atlases.
Topographic mapsTopographic maps, often shortened to "topo maps" feature contour lines to portray the shape and elevation of the land. Topo maps render the three-dimensional ups and downs of the terrain on a two-dimensional surface. These maps use "contour lines" (lines of equal elevation) to show elevation. Lines that are close together indicate steep terrain, while lines far apart indicate flat terrain.
Such maps also usually portray both natural and artificial features. They show and name works of nature including mountains, valleys, plains, lakes, rivers, and vegetation. They also identify selected man-made features, such as roads, boundaries, transmission lines, and major buildings. Topo maps are usually made in scales from 1:24,000 up to 1:250,000 but are occasionally available at scales of 1:500,000 or even 1:1million in the case of aeronautical charts.