Learn to read a map

tourists with map
Traveling is an adventure. Sometimes it is convenient for us to let ourselves go on an organized and planned trip, but other times it is what we really want to do is go on our own, at our free will and without a guide . For all those cases in which we have to move through unfamiliar terrain, we should learn to read the maps correctly. Who tells you that you won’t need to guide yourself with the only help of a map?

Moving around a foreign country without getting lost, especially if you don’t master the local language, necessarily involves knowing how to understand a map and being able to guide yourself through it. Here we explain some basic things that will help you achieve it without problems.

The scale and the legend

Not all maps are the same. Among others, there are special ones with routes to travel by road , with tourist indications and places of interest, or special ones for walking through mountains and rural areas. You will have to choose the one that best suits your needs. First of all, orient yourself on the map looking north (which will be signposted). Then you will have to review the scale (it is usually indicated at the bottom of the map). If the scale is 1: 150,000, it means that one unit on the map corresponds to 150,000 units in reality.

The next step is to learn to decipher the legend of the map, which is the one that will give you a lot of information. The symbols in the legend tell you how each thing is represented on the map: for example, the blue lines for rivers, the red lines for main roads, or the yellow lines for minor roads.

Mountain maps

Topographic maps are very useful for hiking trails without getting lost or simply walking through the countryside. It is important to learn to use a map and a compass in the mountains.

On topographic maps, perfect for walking in the countryside, mountains appear in brown or green. Something that you must learn to decipher on these maps are the contour lines , which indicate the orography of the terrain, since each line marks a height above sea level. If the slope of the terrain is very steep, the contour lines will be close together, and when the terrain is flatter, the lines appear farther apart.