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Paper maps for South American touring?

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Paper maps for South American touring?

Old 06-23-22, 08:38 AM
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Paper maps for South American touring?

Hi All,

I've been doing some looking about online for fold-up paper maps of some South American countries I might cycle through. I probably would supplement with some kind of GPS option, even if it's just a phone, but I don't want to be reliant on battery power and I enjoy planning with paper maps too.

It's hard to figure out what the best available scale maps are available from the sites I've looked at. The countries I am interested in are: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. I would initially want just one map per country. The best scale I have found so far is 1:500,000 and for others like Ecuador only 1:660,000 or above. So, questions:

1. Does anyone know of more detailed scale maps (e.g. 1:250,000) for these countries?

2. If so, where can one find/order them online in the UK?

3. Either way, anyone with recent (last 5-10years) experience of using paper maps of any scale in the above countries: how adequate were they?


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Old 06-23-22, 11:23 AM
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For what it is worth, in 2017 I cycled from Catagena to Ushuaia through the same six countries you listed - scc2ush.com

I used the same maps you are likely have found such as those from ITM. I carried these maps with me (one map per country) and were useful to have a more general overview. They weren't necessarily at the lowest scales needed but were sufficient to plan out general overview.

At the more detailed level, I augmented this and found the following particularly helpful from digital side:
1. When offline the Open Street Map series (MAPS.me application) was helpful in going through some of the larger cities or homing in on particular businesses. The "bike directions" are junk since they don't do reasonable routing but still gave some info about overall elevations. Otherwise the "car directions" were reasonable to get distances.
2. When online the iOverlander application was very helpful in finding information other travelers shared about camp sites, businesses in a country, etc.

Because of MAPS.me and iOverlander, I didn't worry about the more detailed map navigation. I also am not someone who needs turn-by-turn details.
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Old 06-23-22, 11:27 AM
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Detailed (large scale) paper maps, if they exist at all for a country in South America, will vary by country, and I would be surprised if any are available outside of each country.

I toured in Colombia about 4 years ago and had learned that paper maps were available at offices of the Instituto Geografico Augustin Codazzi (IGAC) which has an office in each departmental capital. Upon arrival, I went to the office in Medellin. Their maps which best suited my purposes were the maps they sold for each individual department. The problem is that most of the ones I wanted were out of stock. The woman in the office was very helpful, however. She said she could download the maps I wanted onto a CD. Unfortunately, the plotter in the office was broken, but she told me of a nearby business which had a functioning plotter which could print out the maps I wanted that were out of stock. So I did that for a few departments' maps which were out of stock. It wasn't cheap, and it would have been virtually impossible to do without speaking half-decent Spanish.

One problem is that for the departmental maps, the scale varied enormously depending on how large the department is. The scale was great for small departments like Quindío, but not so great for big departments like Antioquía. And while the deparmental maps showed relief visually, they don't have topographic lines. Colombia is insanely mountainous. However, IGAC also has 1:100,000 maps for the entire country (which requires hundreds of maps because Colombia is big), and these maps have topographic lines. I purchased a few to be downloaded onto the CD and had them printed on the plotter. The topographic lines are only for every 100 meters. If you cross a couple of lines (which I often had to do multiple times a day), that's some serious climbing.

A cyclist who had toured in Colombia before me suggested that I "triangulate" maps by using IGAC paper maps along with google maps and maps.me. He felt that none were 100% accurate, but that by triangulating, he could usually figure out what was correct. I downloaded maps.me for the parts of Colombia where I was headed, and they were very useful for when I was hiking in parks, as well as navigating in towns. Also for comparing to my IGAC maps and looking at greater detail.

I toured quite a few years ago in Chile. At that time, Turistel published really nice paper maps in a single guidebook. Because Chile has relatively few roads outside of Santiago, these maps were quite satisfactory for touring, and the maps extended into the parts of Argentina where I also biked Here's an online version of one of these maps, and at the top it has links to maps for every region of Chile:

I did some biking in Ecuador a long time ago but I don't recall what map I used, but it may have been ITM. But Ecuador is a relatively small country with relatively few rural roads.

Last edited by axolotl; 06-23-22 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 06-23-22, 11:46 AM
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When I cycled from Ushuaia up to Santiago cris-crossing between Argentina and Chile I also used maps.me and openstreetmaps android apps which were very helpful for offline maps in the middle of nowhere (as well as a couple of paper maps as backup) so definitely recommend those apps too. In general would cycle to a general area/town and then ask in any hostel/hotel/tourist office for a local map and ask around about specific places.
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Old 06-23-22, 03:52 PM
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Thanks for these replies.

@mev: that's good to know. And I look forward to exploring your website.

@mev and @vijinho: I had forgotten about the option of offline digital maps. Maybe because I had a couple of experiences where offline apps didn't work offline (!). I'll look into these.

@axolotl: I'm impressed by your persistence! I would probably touch down (and start) in Bogota, so I could try the IGAC there. I looked-up Turistel maps for Chile and found that they seem to have been renamed to Copec but otherwise are reputed to be good and up-to-date, so those look promising.
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