Changing Planet

Of National Geographic Maps and Urban Legends

Rarely a year goes by that I am not asked the following question: “Is it true that, for copyright purposes, National Geographic cartographers always embed an error or two on their maps?

I always respond with an emphatic NO!

Quite the opposite is true of maps published by National Geographic.

National Geographic cartographers strive for accuracy on all of their maps and map products—be it a locator globe the diameter of a quarter or a map frame from our World Atlas or Trail Maps apps. That said, we sometimes take a few liberties when it comes to map content on our general reference maps. Not only do we want to assure that these maps are comprehensive, but that they also portray some unique or lesser-known places. Our new England and Wales map, correction England and Wales (Cymru) map, is a perfect example. Not only did we assure that Welsh place-names were shown in Wales, but that Manx place-names (as used by natives of the Isle of Man) were also noted.

As to other liberties taken with this map, prior to shipping the files to press we noticed the omission of one very interesting Welsh place-name:



National Geographic’s 2012 England and Wales (Cymru) classic-style map

Among one of the world’s longest place-names, our final map proof showed only the short form name of this town—Llanfairpwllgwyngyll—of some 3,000 inhabitants.
We would have been remiss had we not portrayed this name on the map. Our copyrighted map now shows both the long and short form versions of this place-name:

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)

Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps

Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.
  • 手機外殼

    Normally I don’t read article on blogs, but I’d prefer to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very good post.

    • Juan Valdes

      Thank you. So glad you enjoyed.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media