A Large Collection of The Most Beautiful Maps You Can See

Do you want to see a collection of the most beautiful maps out there?

We’ll get to those in a bit.

But first, let’s start with an intro.

The shapes of the features, the place names, and bodies of water can produce a variety of meanings and associations in people’s minds. It teaches something about a place and at the same time raises more questions.

The Terra incognita has a magical attraction.

Maps also help people to see their surroundings, from a bigger perspective. This is true whether they have been to the location or not.

They build anticipation for visiting a place or exploring new areas. At any rate, the art of making maps has a long history that connects with man’s urge to explore.

In many ways, cartography has determined how humans see the world. Below is a list of some of the most beautiful maps from human history.

Lots and lots of beautiful maps

Duke’s Plan Of New York

In the year 1664, the English became owners of what is now known as New York. They traded it with the Dutch.

The Duke’s Plan of New York is an astonishing map of the area. It contains the spelling that was common in the seventeenth century.

It shows the Hudson’s River, Longe Isleland, and Mannados. At that time, New York was not yet called New York.

The purpose of the map was that James, Duke of York would see it and name the area after himself.

Comparative Heights, of the Principal Mountains and Lengths of the Principal Rivers in the World by William Darton and W. R. Gardner, 1823

Monte’s map

Urbano Monte produced Monte’s map in Italy in 1587. This is a large and colorful map of the entire globe, based on the information then available.

More than four centuries later, David Rumsey collected and assembled the parts of the map. It shows climates, daylight hours, architecture, and flora and fauna of the different areas depicted.

Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula by Hendrik Hondius, 1630

Planisphaerium Arateum Sive Compages Orbium Mundanorum Ex Hypothesi Aratea In Plano Expressa

Another of these beautiful maps is the planisphere of Aratus. It is a depiction of the heavenly orbits according to the Greek astronomer and poet Aratus.

It was planarly drawn by the cartographer Andreas Cellarius in 1660. It is part of his collection Harmoniae Macrosmica, which translates as Harmony of the Macrocosm.

Brion World Map

A map of the world represented as a double hemisphere. Its purpose was mainly as decoration and it was made in 1783 by Louis Brion de la Tour.

An additional feature of the map is that it shows the travels of James Cook, the famous explorer.

Mappe Monde, by Jean Baptiste Nolin, 1755

Exploratory Soil Map of Kenya (1980)

It has been said that the colors and hues in this map are an abstract painting in themselves.

The image is amazing. It would look beautiful hanging on a wall with a nice frame or even as a screensaver.

Ortelius Islandia

This is a map of Iceland made in 1587 by the cartographer Ortelius. A colorful map with mythological sea monsters and erupting volcanoes.

Book Of Navigation

Piri Reis was an Ottoman admiral from the sixteenth century. He made many beautiful maps.

Several of these maps are in his collection ‘Book of Navigation.’ Being a sea admiral, he put less emphasis on the landmasses than on the seas.

The included land areas were drawn and colored in a playful application of the possibilities of those days.

A Map of the Wonderous Isle of Manhattan


The Cheonhado map is from Korea around the turn of the nineteenth century. The name Cheonhado means “Complete map of all under Heaven.”

The center of the map is the fabled Mount Meru. This stems from Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain philosophy.

These regard Meru as the physical and spiritual heart of the cosmos.

Carte Generale De La Terre

This shows the journeys by explorers like Bougainville, Cook, Halley, Magellan, and Tasman.

The maker of this Carte Generale is Jean Baptiste Louis Clouet. He published it in 1785.

Leo Belgicus by Hondius & Gerritsz, 1630

Catalan Atlas

The Catalan Atlas is one of the older maps of the world. It was published in 1375 as a portolan chart.

These charts served navigators in their work to identify their locations. The information on this map is from the information that Marco Polo gathered on his travels.

Geological Investigation Of The Alluvial Valley Of The Lower Mississippi River

Made in 1944 by Harold Norman Fisk, a geology professor. It traces the changes that the Mississippi River had undergone.

Looking at the colorful result, one may start thinking of muscle tissue or ribbon candy. The overall result is abstract art.

Bonsignori Map Of Western Africa

The next on this list of maps is the 1580 gold map of West Africa by Stefano Bonsignori.

Nova orbis terrarum delineatio singulari ratione accommodata meridiano tabb by Philippus Eckebrecht, 1630

Yongying County In China

A very interesting map created in China between 1734 and 1779. It gives an overview of the Yongying Country rivers delta.

In the western world, it is common to display North at the top and South at the bottom of the map. However, this map shows it the other way round.

This Fantasy Map Of Sarkamand

This map looks like an ancient Arabian map. Robert Altbauer created this recently using Photoshop and Illustrator.

It shows a large capital city in the middle of a desert. The map contains illuminated Arabic-looking lettering.

The name Sarkamand, refers to the city Samarkand, an old city in what is now Uzbekistan.

Desceliers World Map

This map existed before Francis Drake made his journeys. The information reflects the knowledge of the world in those days.

Pierre Descelliers made this planisphere chart in 1550. The bottom left corner bears the arms of Henry II of France.

The lower right corner shows the arms of the Duke of Montmorency.

The Cedid Atlas Tercumesi

The next beautiful map is by Selim III, Sultan of the Ottoman empire, in 1803. Selim was a modern emperor who was ahead of his time.

He introduced many changes and modernizations. This map is the first Muslim atlas to use a European-style cartographic style.

Ptolemaic World Map

This map shows the then-known-world as interpreted by Ptolemy. He was a Greek mathematician from the second century.

The World’s First Geological Map

In 1815 William Smith introduced a new type of map, the geographical map. It changed the way maps were used and it introduced an era of renewed exploratory efforts.

The map in the link is probably one of the most famous maps by William Smith. It shows the stratification of England, Scotland, and Wales.

Fra Mauro

A 1459 map by Fra Mauro. It shows an alternative perspective of the world, with information from Marco Polo’s travels.

The c. 1900 Taride edition of Louis Bretez and Michel-Etienne Turgot’s monumental 1739 map of Paris

Atlantic Ocean Floor: Plate Techtonics Map

Echo-sounding is a new technique. It makes it possible to map the ocean floors.

This image shows one of the maps of the ocean beds produced in the 1960s.

New York

An amazing minimalistic map of New York. The absence of color shows roads and rivers.

Mapping the Heavens in 1693

Ignace Gaston Pardies was a cartographer. He created a series of sublime constellation maps.

He was active during the late 1600s. The six maps he made join together to make a complete view of the sky.

Besides map making, Pardies was a professor of mathematics and a Jesuit. He was a friend of famous scientists like Huygens, Leibnitz, and Newton.


A detailed representation of Manhattan. It uses a traditional color scheme, which gives the appearance of an atlas entry.

Tokyo Transit System

A stylized and minimalistic representation of Tokyo’s transit system. An amazing example of what can be achieved by only using strong lines.

Ending thoughts on beautiful maps

In past times maps served two main roles: They had to be accurate and beautiful. Maps were expensive because they were made by hand and they were hard to reproduce.

Some maps were commissions for a personal library and had to reflect the status and wealth of the owner. Even now, aesthetics continues to be an important feature.

This article took a journey through a variety of artful maps. It is clear that ideas for new designs can come from any place.

Sometimes it takes a trip into lesser-known territories to find inspiration.

If you liked this article about the beautiful maps, you should also check out this article with different types of maps and its uses.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like the map elementsmap vectorwhat is a vector mapinteractive maps, the choropleth map and how to make onethematic map examples, and statistical maps.

A bit obvious by now, but we really like maps so we wrote even more about subjects like funny mapsmetro mapsfantasy maps, and even the US electoral map.

I take it you like maps as well so make sure to check out MapSVG, a great WordPress maps plugin you should check out.

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