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CIA World Factbook: Maps

Posted by Laurie Frost on November 5, 2009

The CIA World Factbook is a great source for public domain maps. On the opening page under Reference: Regional Maps, you can choose from 16 maps of continents, world regions, or the world at large, and from the drop-down menu on this page, you can access several hundred national or regional maps. That these maps are in the public domain is explained by this notice:

CIA Factbook Copyright Notice

Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the Central Intelligence Agency Web site is in the public domain and may be reproduced, published or otherwise used without the Central Intelligence Agency’s permission. We request only that the Central Intelligence Agency be cited as the source of the information and that any photo credits or bylines be similarly credited to the photographer or author or Central Intelligence Agency, as appropriate.

If a copyright is indicated on a photo, graphic, or any other material, permission to copy these materials must be obtained from the original source.

This copyright notice does not pertain to information at Web sites other than the Central Intelligence Agency Web site.

Regional maps, for example of the Arctic [Arctic pdf], are available as jpegs and pdfs. What I can show you here are the jpegs, but I’m also giving you the pdf links. The pdfs are, as you’d expect, much crisper.

Oceania [pdf]:

and the Middle East [pdf]:

Once you choose a country from the drop-down menu, you’ll discover a useful feature. The relative location of nations and territories on their continent is provided as a secondary map. In other words, let’s say you need a map of Andorra.


While the country map gives you some notion of where the nation is since you can see that it borders Spain and France, the secondary map gives a better idea of where the Spanish-French border is interrupted by this small country, its area just 2.5 times the size of Washington DC.


For each nation, the maps are accompanied by a drop-down menu for 9 items ranging from a general introduction to descriptions of its people, government, geography, economy, military, communications, transportation, and transnational issues.

For example, on Andorra’s page, under Background, we learn

For 715 years, from 1278 to 1993, Andorrans lived under a unique co-principality, ruled by French and Spanish leaders (from 1607 onward, the French chief of state and the Spanish bishop of Urgel). In 1993, this feudal system was modified with the titular heads of state retained, but the government transformed into a parliamentary democracy. Long isolated and impoverished, mountainous Andorra achieved considerable prosperity since World War II through its tourist industry. Many immigrants (legal and illegal) are attracted to the thriving economy with its lack of income taxes.

By the way, at seven-tenths the size of Washington DC’s Mall [or .44 sq km]  the world’s smallest sovereign state (and third smallest in population) recognized in the CIA World Factbook is the Holy See (Vatican City).

Maps of the Gaza Strip and West Bank are included:

Gaza Strip

You would need to know what area of the world the Gaza Strip is in for the map above to make much sense, but compare it to the regional map in the first part of the post, and you’ll see that the white area here represent water.

Territories are also mapped. Here are South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, UK territories, also claimed by Argentina.

Location of South Georgia and Sandwich Islands relative to South America.

These islands aren’t the only territorial disputes that the UK is handling; according to the CIA World Factbook:

in 2002, Gibraltar residents voted overwhelmingly by referendum to reject any “shared sovereignty” arrangement between the UK and Spain;… Spain disapproves of UK plans to grant Gibraltar greater autonomy; Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory), and its former inhabitants since their eviction in 1965;…in May 2006, the High Court of London reversed the UK Government’s 2004 orders of council that banned habitation on the islands; UK rejects sovereignty talks requested by Argentina, which still claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands;… Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark’s claim that the Faroe Islands’ continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm.

Here we also learn that the long form of what we abbreviate as UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales) and that its dependencies include

Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands.

location of Gibraltar

location of Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)

location of British Indian Ocean Territory

location of Faroe Islands








The United States has its own share of dependencies:

American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Wake Island

note: from 18 July 1947 until 1 October 1994, the US administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; it entered into a political relationship with all four political units: the Northern Mariana Islands is a commonwealth in political union with the US (effective 3 November 1986); the Republic of the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 21 October 1986); the Federated States of Micronesia signed a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 3 November 1986); Palau concluded a Compact of Free Association with the US (effective 1 October 1994)

Where are the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the US?  Back to the drop-down menu, and on to these maps and facts:

location of the Northern Mariana Islands, a US commonwealth in the Northern Pacific Ocean

Northern Mariana Islands

Not far away are the Federated States of Micronesi, Palau,  and the Marshall Islands.

Federated States of Micronesia

Marshall Islands



location of Federated States of Micronesia location of Marshall Islands

location of Palau

The US  connection to these islands began in WWII. In the Marshall Islands,

Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.

And what about Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, and Palmyra Atoll?

location of the United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges

United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges

Collectively designated  the United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges,

“These remote refuges are the most widespread collection of marine- and terrestrial-life protected areas on the planet under a single country’s jurisdiction. They sustain many endemic species including corals, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds, water birds, land birds, insects, and vegetation not found elsewhere.”

There are

“no indigenous inhabitants” and “public entry is by special-use permit from US Fish and Wildlife Service only and generally restricted to scientists and educators.”

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