Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Ideal Travel Atlas - Suggestions?

This is a blog only post
> -----Original Message-----
> Dear Travel Geographer,
> I am considering purchasing a new world atlas as the current one I
> have is several years old. I know you are a geographer and not a
> cartographer, but I wonder if you could recommend one among the better
> ones that are now on sale ($100 to $175). I've seen ads for such a
> world atlas put out by National Geographic and some of the other mass
> commercial map publishing firms. Some come with a disc or references
> to links to the internet. They all look great. Which one would you
> select for someone who wants to use it for reference, primarily in
> planning world travels, and secondarily for general reference.
> Thank-you in advance. A loyal listener.
> Robert

Hi Bob -

I know that there are some pretty expensive atlases out there. Unfortunately, I am not very familiar with the more pricey ones. I used to always recommend "Goodes World Atlas", which is what I require for students in the classes I teach at Northern Arizona University -- mostly because of the many thematic (population, climate, etc.) maps that it contains. However, I was trying to help my middle school kids with some homework once and I found that Goodes was terrible for the assignment that they were given. That opened my eyes to the degree to which different atlases are suited for different purposes (which I should have known!).

I think that any world atlas is going to be limited in trip planning, because the level of detail required is beyond what can be shown in most atlases. I have also found that Goodes is only so-so for planning trips abroad for this very reason. I used online mapping sites for my travels to Southeast Asia this summer (maps.msn.com was the best for that trip). I use a large scale highway-based atlas, published in Europe, to plan my travels there.

SO - perhaps the bigger, more expensive atlases include more detailed road and settlement/town networks on top of topography? That would probably be the best for trip planning. Web and/or CD access could provide this, though in my experience this can vary quite a bit from one provider to another.

Thanks for being a loyal listener. I will try replying to your email in the next podcast, as well. Perhaps another listener will have a good recommendation.

Cheers - Alan

** If you have any suggestions, please either post it in the comments below, or email it to me at Travelgeographer@gmail.com. **