Let's say I'm building a world that is very much like Earth in almost all respects. It might have some small differences, but on the whole, it's essentially based on the real world.

Now, I'd like to place some element of this world in some location (in my mind it'd be on land, but if the answer allows for location on water in addition to on land, then only so much the better) that is a minimum, or perhaps exactly, a given distance away from a human population center with some specific minimum number (to a reasonable approximation) of people.

For example, if I want to place something 500 km from the nearest human settlement with at least 10,000 people, then likely 510 km from the central portions of Paris, France is likely not going to be a good choice.

Let's say I'm not very concerned about topography at all. If the solution can take topography into account, so much the better, but it definitely is not required.

I'm primarily interested in resources that are available online.

What resources are available for identifying at least approximate locations based on such criteria? How can they be used to identify such locations?


2 Answers 2


Here's what you can do:

  1. Find a spreadsheet of world cities and edit it down to those over 10,000 people. The data must include Latitude and Longitude values (preferably in decimal degrees i.e. 37.344, -121.334). That should be easy enough. Also keep in mind that the population figures you will get are going to be rough estimates.

  2. Follow the instructions here to convert your spreadsheet to a KML (not KMZ). You are going to need Google Earth by the way.

  3. Once you have your KML file use this link to create your distance buffers as needed. Very user friendly.

You will still have to visually determine sites you may want to use as there are no practical analysis options without more robust software. And you are also limited to the Google basemap from the browser your results will pop up in. As others have mentioned you can get more customization from tweaking the Google Maps API if you have the html/javscript know-how.

One more caveat, on the worldwide map projection that Google uses you are going to get slightly distorted distances for 500km (worse at greater distances). As long as ultra-precision is not a concern you should be alright.

I am a Geographic Information Systems analyst. Salud!


Google maps has a distance feature.

  1. Go to google maps and center your map on Paris (or something) and zoom out to an appropriate distance

  2. Right click on Paris and select "Measure Distance"

  3. Right click elsewhere and select "Distance to Here"

  4. Drag the elsewhere end around until you get the distance you want.

Next up find a place that is big and without large settlements. Australia is a great start. The states of WA, NT, and SA have a COMBINED 24 cities of over 10,000 people, and most of them are bunched up around Perth or Adelaide. Also try Mongolia (~20 cities of 10,000, watch out for settlements cities in Siberia and China), the northern half of Canada (only Yellowknife in NWT), the Sahara Desert, and everything between Manaus, Brazil and the Andes.

For 500km, try 6.33S 66.04W in Brazil; 56.60N 114.46E in Siberia; 27.38S 130.93E in South Australia; and 53.53N 90.92W in Ontario. Pounded those out in about 15 minutes. Brains >> software...at least for now.

Maps are cool! Happy hunting.


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