À la découverte des cartes IGN

Discovering IGN maps

The maps of the National Geographic Institute (IGN) are essential references for all cartography enthusiasts. Since its creation in 1940, the IGN's mission has been to produce and disseminate geographic data for mainland France and the overseas departments. In this article, we will discover the particularities of IGN maps, their usefulness, as well as the different ways of using them.

The particularities of IGN cards

IGN maps succeeded the General Staff maps and are known for their precision and reliability. They are produced at different scales (1:25,000, 1:50,000, 1:100,000, 1:250,000 mainly). These scales allow great precision in the representation of geographical and topographical details but also adaptability to their use. The maps are also very detailed, with an accurate representation of contour lines, buildings, rivers, forests, hiking trails, etc.
Detail of an IGN map

Details of an IGN map of Carpentras dating from 1976

The IGN maps are also regularly updated, in order to take into account changes in the terrain (new constructions, changes in vegetation, etc.). They are published on paper and can be purchased online or in specialized stores. It is also possible to access digital versions of the maps, which can be downloaded and used on GPS devices or smartphones.

Usefulness of IGN maps

IGN maps are very useful for many outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing, hunting, fishing, etc. They allow users to orient themselves precisely in nature, giving them detailed information about the terrain, trails, waterways, etc. IGN maps are also used by professionals (geologists, town planners, architects, etc.) for field studies or development projects.

Use of IGN maps

To use an IGN map, it is important to understand the elements that make it up. Contour lines, for example, represent the altitude of the land. The closer the curves are, the steeper the terrain. Trails and hiking trails are indicated by broken lines, while roads are represented by solid lines.
It is also important to know how to interpret the legends and symbols used on the map. Building symbols, for example, represent their type (house, church, castle, etc.) and their size. Watercourse symbols indicate their width, flow rate and type (river, stream, canal, etc.). Vegetation symbols represent the density of trees, forests and crops.


In conclusion, IGN maps are essential tools for outdoor activities and geography professionals. Their precision, reliability and great wealth of information make them essential references for all map and geography lovers!
Don't hesitate to discover my old IGN maps !
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