Adventures in Machine Learning

Creating Interactive Maps with Folium: A Beginner’s Guide

Folium, a Python library based on the Leaflet JavaScript library, has become a popular tool for creating interactive geographic visualizations. With Folium, it is now easier than ever to create and style a map, add layers, and present data in an intuitive and engaging manner.

In this article, we will explore some of the essential steps to create and style a map using Folium. Whether you are a seasoned developer or a newcomer to the field, this article will provide valuable insights into how to make the most of this powerful library.

Creating a Map:

One of the key features of Folium is the ability to create a tiled web map with just a few lines of code. To start, we’ll need to create a new map using the folium.Map() function.

By default, this function creates a map that is centered on a location defined by the latitude and longitude parameters, and with a default zoom level. We can specify the tileset used for the map by setting the ’tiles’ parameter.

Folium supports several tilesets, including OpenStreetMap, Carto, and Stamen. Depending on the type of map you are creating, you may choose a different tileset to best suit your needs.

Changing the Map Style:

Once we’ve created the map, we can further customize its appearance by changing the map style. The ’tiles’ parameter can also be used to specify the ‘basemap’ or background layer of the map.

This can range from a simple, blank canvas to a map with satellite imagery or road networks. Folium also supports adding custom tiles from providers such as Mapbox or Google Maps.

By using this feature, you can create maps that are tailored to your specific use case or branding. Adding Geolocation and Adjusting Zoom Level:

Folium makes it easy to focus on a specific location by specifying the latitude and longitude of the desired location.

For example, if we want to create a map of Vancouver, Canada, we would use the following code:

map = folium.Map(location=[49.2827, -123.1207], zoom_start=11)

With the zoom_start parameter, we can adjust the initial zoom level to get the desired view of the map. Higher zoom levels will show more detail, while lower zoom levels will give a wider view of the area.

Adding a GeoJSON Countries Layer:

Finally, we can add layers to the map to display data or additional information. One example is adding a layer that shows country borders and boundaries.

This can be done using Folium’s GeoJson() function. By providing a direct data URL or a GeoJSON object, we can add borders to the map.

One source of such data is the Natural Earth project, which provides high-quality data for country and regional boundaries. Once the data is loaded, we can further customize the layer by specifying the line color and style.


In conclusion, Folium is an incredibly powerful and versatile library for creating interactive geographic visualizations in Python. By using its simple yet flexible API, you can create customized and visually stunning maps to present your data and tell your story.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you will have a solid foundation to start exploring the capabilities of Folium and creating your own compelling visualizations. Creating a Choropleth Map with Your Data:

Choropleth maps are a powerful way to display data by region or area.

In this section, we will explore how to create a choropleth map using Folium and data on ecological footprints per capita. Getting Data on Ecological Footprint per Capita:

The first step is to obtain data on ecological footprint per capita for each country.

One source for this data is a CSV file compiled by a team at York University and the Footprint Data Foundation, based on Wikipedias list of countries by ecological footprint. The Global Footprint Network also provides similar data on their website.

To load this data into Python, we will use the Pandas library. We start by importing the library and then use the read_csv() function to load the data.

import pandas as pd

# Load data

data_df = pd.read_csv(‘ecological_footprints.csv’)

Adding the Data to the Map:

Now that we have our data, we can create a choropleth map to display it. To do this, we first need a GeoJSON file containing the geometries of the regions we want to display.

For this example, we will use a file containing country borders from the Natural Earth project. Next, we need to merge our data with the GeoJSON file.

To do this, we will create a Pandas DataFrame from our data and specify the column containing the country names as the key. # Create Pandas DataFrame

data = pd.DataFrame({

‘Country’: data_df[‘Country’],

‘Ecological Footprint per Capita’: data_df[‘Ecological Footprint per Capita’]


# Initialize map

m = folium.Map(location=[0, 0], zoom_start=2)

# Add Choropleth layer



name=’Ecological Footprint per Capita’,


columns=[‘Country’, ‘Ecological Footprint per Capita’],






legend_name=’Ecological Footprint per Capita’


Adapting Color Scheme and Opacity:

One of the advantages of choropleth maps is that they allow for a range of colors to be used to represent different ranges of data values.

In Folium, we can specify a fill_color parameter with a Brewer color palette to define the colors used. We can also modify the fill_opacity and line_opacity parameters to adjust the transparency of the colors used.

Additionally, we can specify a nan_fill_color to change the color displayed for missing data values, and a legend_name to customize the label used on the map legend. # Modify color scheme and opacity



name=’Ecological Footprint per Capita’,


columns=[‘Country’, ‘Ecological Footprint per Capita’],






legend_name=’Ecological Footprint per Capita (ha/capita)’



In conclusion, choropleth maps can be a powerful tool for visualizing data by region or area.

Using Folium, it is relatively straightforward to create a choropleth map by merging data with a GeoJSON file and customizing the colors and transparency used. By following the steps outlined in this article, you should now have a good understanding of how to create a choropleth map with Folium and how to style it to fit your needs.

In conclusion, Folium is a powerful tool for creating interactive geographic visualizations with Python. This article has covered how to create and style a map using Folium, including how to change the map style, add geolocation, and overlay data on the map using choropleth maps.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you should now have a good understanding of how to create compelling visualizations using Folium. The ability to create and share interactive maps is crucial for making sense of complex data and communicating insights, making this a must-have skill for data scientists and professionals in many industries.

Start exploring Folium today and elevate your data visualization game further!

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