Digital Geography

How to find geospatial data for Spain

In some countries, such as the USA and Spain, there is a very nice law that makes life easy for geoscientists. This law guarantees free access to a broad range of geospatial data like DEMs, satellite imagery, aerial photographs, ground use data, hydrological information and so on. In most cases, these data are made public via web-based GIS applications. These are generally rather slow, but allow to display a lot of different datasets. I did both my diploma thesis and my PhD in Spain and I really needed to find out about all the data available. I knew that they were out there, but I had to find them. Most of them are only available in Spanish, so I needed to learn some basic Spanish. This is easy as long as you stay in the geosciences vocabulary: Pleistocene = pleistoceno; georeferenciada = geo referenced etc. However, I thought it would be nice to have a list of data sources in one place, so here it is:


This page is available in English and contains even more data than you can think of:

  • Hydrology
  • Geophysics
  • Mineral resources
  • Drill sites
  • Geochemistry
  • Geological heritage
  • Topography
  • Geomorphology
  • Geological maps

The color scheme is weird, but the data is great and you can download the datasets:

SIGECO geological map of the Bolonia Bay, based on Magna 1:50000 maps

SIGECO topographical map of the Bolonia Bay

SIGECO geological map of the Bolonia Bay, based on old Magna maps


Another great resource is IBERPIX, specialized on imagery and topographic maps, run by the Spanish Ministry of Geology and Mining IGN. It’s in Spanish.

You’ll find:

  • Topographic maps
  • Spot images
  • 5m DEMs
  • Geo referenced panorama photographs

IBERPIX – topographic map and panorama photos of the Bolonia Bay

IBERPIX – old topographic map of the Bolonia Bay

IBERPIX – SPOT imagery of the Bolonia Bay

IBERPIX – 5m DEM of the Bolonia Bay

The maps are also available for 3d glasses!

IBERPIX – 3d map of the Bolonia Bay – make sure you wear your blue/red goggles!


The Ministry for Agriculture also hosts web mapping applications with an incredible amount of data. At GEOPORTAL, you can choose overlays with data on

  • Agriculture
  • Hydrology/water/water quality
  • Geo heritage
  • Tourism
  • Business and forests
  • Coastal data
  • etc.

Geoportal – data on crops and hydrology

You need to be patient, loading takes a while and you need to have a Spanish dictionary. It is, however, absolutely worth the effort.

Very similar map services provided by the government with almost the same data are:

  • SIGA
  • AFOROS (hydrology information)
  • SNCZI (hydropower)
  • DPMT (Marine life, land register and Ortophotos!)
  • BDN (Natural life)

For all these maps you can also load the IGN Ortofoto overlay, which has some really nice aerial imagery. Some military installations are blurred, but then you can use GoogleEarth for those…

IGN Ortofoto overlay

IGN earthquake data and more

If you are interested in earthquakes, I recommend to check the IGN pages. It’s also in Spanish.

You can access:

Yes, the IGN is also on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter:

Instituto Geografico Nacional

IGME geoscience data

The Spanish Geologial Survey IGME (Instituto Geologico y Minero de Espana) also runs a website where you can find lots of geoscience data. It’s in Spanish and includes data on:

Quaternary Active Faults of Iberia

Even more earthquake data and fault data can be accessed at the QAFI – the Quaternary Active Faults Database of Iberia in English. This is really one of my favourite data sources, but this might be due to my personal interest…

The interactive QAFI database


A good blog in Spanish on cartography and any related topics is todocartografia.

The end

So, what is all that good for? Well, it’s geoscience disneyland for everyone working on a BSc., MSc. or PhD thesis in Spain. You have all the base maps more or less ready, you can load and compare data, and most of these services are for free. There are even different generations of aerial photos out there, which allow comparing fast-changing geological phenomena like mass movements and environments like dunes:

The dune system at Cape Camarinal in the Bolonia Bay is characterized by a high mobility and fast morphological changes. Only 60 years ago, the dune separated the peninsula from the coast. A Aerial photograph from November, 1956 (ICA, 2010). B Aerial photograph from December, 1995 (ICA, 2010). C Aerial photograph from February, 2005 (SIGPAC, 2010). D Aerial photograph from 2009 (SIGPAC, 2010). The military base on the southern part of the peninsula is blurred on the newest images.

Unfortunately, the SIGPAC site has moved and so did the ICA of the Junta de Andalucía, but the data is till available via the GEOPORTAL. In Spain, it’s often a good idea to search the websites of the autonomous communities to find specialized geographical data…


  • Grützner, C. (2011): The Baelo Claudia earthquake problem. PhD thesis, RWTH Aachen University.
  • SIGPAC (2010): Sistema de Informacion Geografica de Parcelas Agricolas (SIGPAC), online GIS,, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino de Espana, last access: 2010-12-10.
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