This post is in the spirit of "big-lists" on tex.se and other sites

Purpose of this post...

...is to collect (in separate answers, unless clearly related) open datasets containing detailed geospatial information.

Geographic coverage

The datasets should be worldwide or covering at least areas exceeding single counties or small (sub-)continents.

Content coverage

I believe the other restrictions already limit the sets substantially. In terms of content anything is fine, as long as it contains detailed geospatial information, be it raster-data, point data or.

To me, info that is built into standard packages (such as a worldwide city list) is boring. It's left to the community and the rating system to discourage those.

Posting format

Post a link and a brief description of what the data contains.


If this resonates sufficiently (five or more answers which aren't mine) I'll place a bounty of 100-200 to reward the user with the most above average ranking answers (most likely just the highest ranking answer).

  • 3
    Maybe consider a community wiki instead of individual posts - meta.stackexchange.com/q/11740/254520
    – philshem
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 17:00
  • ditto @philshem i have a lot of things to post, not going to post them individually. and just wait til andrew geocode gets a hold of this....
    – albert
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 2:33
  • 1
    @albert : rather than individual 'datasets', or even repositories & archives, it might be better to just try to catalog various federated search systems & cataloging efforts. (eg, re3data.org, dataone.org, geongrid.org/index.php/gateways, etc.)
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 20:18

8 Answers 8


Natural Earth - Free vector and raster map data at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110m scales
Natural Earth is a public domain map dataset available at 1:10m, 1:50m, and 1:110 million scales. Featuring tightly integrated vector and raster data, with Natural Earth you can make a variety of visually pleasing, well-crafted maps with cartography or GIS software.
Natural Earth was built through a collaboration of many volunteers and is supported by NACIS (North American Cartographic Information Society), and is free for use in any type of project (see our Terms of Use page for more information).


Rather than recommending an individual dataset, I'll suggest The Geolode: http://geolode.org/.

It's a catalog of websites and online repositories that provide free and open geospatial data from around the world. It's maintained by a number of volunteers, mostly academic librarians. Each website is tagged with places, ISO topic categories, and keywords. Use the place keywords to browse for your geographic area of interest - "Earth" is used to capture websites that provide global data. You can suggest additional websites by sending a tweet.


Administrative Boundaries

Global Admin Boundaries geometries are freely available through GADM.org

You can download the whole world dataset or each individual country. The sub-admin units can go several levels deep, for instance the German dataset has five levels of admin units.

N.B. GADM data is not licenced for commercial purposes unless consent is given.

  • How detailed is it for less developed countries? Say Gambia or Kyrgyzstan?
    – sheß
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 7:11
  • Detail is generally very good in just about any country you care to name. Currency is probably a bigger problem, the last update was in 2015 so there's bound to be some out of date data. They also list "Known Issues" on this page gadm.org/problems including a few problems with Kyrgyzstan.
    – aidenprice
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 0:35

Deforestation and landuse

Detailed worldwide rasterdata on deforestation and forest cover between 2000-2014. From "High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change" published in Science by Hansen et. al. (2013): https://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest

Detailed worldwide raster data (30x30 metres) on land use in 2010, based on Landsat imagery. Classifying the world into 10 different classes of landcovers: http://www.globallandcover.com/GLC30Download/index.aspx


Animals, plants and biodiversity

Point data on animal sightings, pooling different sources including academic sources and crowd-sourced reports. The data currently includes more than 600 million records: http://www.gbif.org/


ESRI has their own open data on their website.

Here is the link to it : http://opendata.arcgis.com/


Planet OSM
Planet.osm is the OpenStreetMap data in one file: all the nodes, ways and relations that make up our map. A new version is released every week. It's a big file (XML variant over 617GB uncompressed, 44.7GB bz2 compressed and 29.3GB PBF at 2015/10/12).
There are also files called Extracts which contain OpenStreetMap Data for individual continents, countries, and metropolitan areas.
The files found here are regularly-updated, complete copies of the OpenStreetMap.org database, and those published before the 12 September 2012 are distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, those published after are Open Data Commons Open Database License 1.0 licensed.


Health survey

The demographic and health surveys (DHS) repeatedly surveys households in over 90 counties (and counting), with a focus on health related questions. In most countries surveys are geocoded and the coordinates are available (though blurred) to researchers: http://www.dhsprogram.com/

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