Around the world to a mystery country

Disregard the rivers, no special meaning.

Hint:

Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 demonstrate equivalency

Hint 2:

Top of a morning (2)

Hint 3:

Don't fear the knowledge tag; the mechanism is quite simple. Consistency in mapping pictures to text is key.

Hint 4:

Look left of gazelles (4)

Exhibits

1a

1b

2a

2b

2c

2d

3a

4a

4b

4c

4d

4e

4f

4g

4h

4i

4j

4k

4l

• Good progress so far! Identifications nearly perfect. Both next steps partially on track.
– Amoz
Commented May 25, 2021 at 13:43

To follow on from @Randal'Thor's findings and our discussions in comments, I believe I have now sussed that the mystery country the OP is seeking is:

SPAIN

To find this, firstly note that Exhibits 1, 2 and 3 are supposed to be 'equivalent' (as per Hint 1). We have already sussed that we are supposed to extract specific letters from the name of the countries and cities depicted in each map, but so far we have been a little slapdash in which ones we select in each instance. However, there is a hard-and-fast rule set as to how to extract these letters, depending on the map sections shown.

The rule set is:

1. If a city is shown as a red dot, the name of the city takes precedence over the name of the country; else, use the usual shortform name of the country.

2. If the top/bottom half of a country is shown, take only the first/last letter of the name, respectively. [Hint 2]

3. If the left/right half of a country is shown, take the left/right half of the name, respectively. [Hint 4] If the name has an odd number of letters, include the middle letter.

4. If the map has been flipped, simply swap 'top' for 'bottom' or 'left' for 'right' (or vice versa).

To test these rules, see the equivalence of Exhibits 1-3:

Exhibit 1:
1a CANADA (left half) = CAN
1b BRAZIL (top) = B

Exhibit 2:
2a CUBA (top) = C
2b ANKARA (top) = A
2c PAKISTAN (bottom) = N
2d BRAZIL (bottom, flipped = top) = B

Exhibit 3:
3a CANBERRA (right, flipped = left) = CANB

i.e. In all 3 instances, the maps represent the 4-letters string CANB

Now that we have proven our rule set, let's extract the required letters from Exhibit 4:

4a MALI (left) = MA
4b GREECE (top) = G
4c GREECE (bottom) = E
4d LISBON (bottom, flipped = top) = L
4e MILAN (left, flipped = right) = LAN
4f ALGIERS (top, flipped = bottom) = S
4g FRANCE (top) = F
4h LAGOS (left) = LAG
4i HONDURAS (bottom) = S
4j HONDURAS (top) = H
4k ICELAND (top) = I
4l PERTH (bottom, flipped = top) = P

All together, this spells out MAGELLAN'S FLAGSHIP.

This is the helpful clue we need to help us identify the country depicted in the simplified map of the main question (since the map alone makes this a very difficult challenge), which is:

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, since the flagship of Ferdinand Magellan during his circumnavigation of the world was the Trinidad.

Next, identify the red dot in the image. This is the country's capital city:

Finally, note that the map shows the left-half of the country, flipped, meaning we need to take the right half of this. If we apply the rules we have already established, this should give us:

FSPAIN (including the middle letter). However, here I surmise that there is one more rule to include in our rule set - that if the city has a minus sign beside its dot, we are supposed to exclude the middle letter.

With this addition to the rules, we can now see that our final answer is SPAIN!

One final remark - this is an appropriate choice of final destination given the puzzle's context, since:

Magellan's voyage around the world (as per the title) actually began and ended in Spain!

• Great explanation and correct of course!
– Amoz
Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 14:49
• Fantastic puzzle and solution (cc @Amoz)! As well as "flagship" mentioned in my answer, I'd also spotted "Magellan" as a possibility, but I didn't get the next steps. Great that everything fits together so clearly: I was a bit disappointed when I thought that there wasn't consistency in letter choices based on east/west/north/south and flipped/not, but this makes complete sense. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 15:43

Identifying the countries

An important realisation, along with recognising maps, is that

not all of them are full countries (some of them are just parts of countries), and some of them are rotated or reflected to be not in their usual orientation.

Exhibit 1 - two parts

1b is BRAZIL (northern part).

Exhibit 2 - four parts

2a is CUBA (western part).
2b is TURKEY (northern part) with ANKARA in red.
2c is PAKISTAN (southern part).
2d is BRAZIL (southern part, flipped top to bottom).

Exhibit 3 - one part

3a is AUSTRALIA (eastern part, flipped right to left) with CANBERRA in red.

Exhibit 4 - twelve parts

4a is MALI (western part).
4b is GREECE (northern part).
4c is GREECE (southern part).
4d is PORTUGAL (southern part, flipped top to bottom) with LISBON in red.
4e is ITALY (western part, flipped right to left) with MILAN in red.
4f is ALGERIA (northern part, flipped top to bottom) with ALGIERS in red.
4g is FRANCE (northern part).
4h is NIGERIA (western part) with LAGOS in red.
4i is HONDURAS (southern part).
4j is HONDURAS (northern part).
4k is ICELAND (northern part).
4l is AUSTRALIA (southern part, flipped top to bottom) with PERTH in red.

Next steps

(thanks to @Stiv for some help here!)

The OP says that "Exhibits 1, 2, and 3 demonstrate equivalency", so maybe we're meant to get:

1. CAN from Canada, BRA from Brazil;

2. C from CUBA, A from Ankara, N from Pakistan, BRA from Brazil (again);

3. CANBERRA from Canberra.

Then the meaning of Exhibit 4 might be along the lines of:

MA from MALI.
G or GR or GRE from GREECE.
E or CE or ECE from GREECE.
N or ON or BON from LISBON.
M or MI or MIL from MILAN.
A or AL or ALG from ALGIERS.
F from FRANCE.
LAG from LAGOS.
S from HONDURAS.
H from HONDURAS.
I from ICELAND.
P from PERTH.

It looks like we're getting

something FLAGSHIP, but I can't figure out the early parts. Maybe the red + next to Milan and Lagos in the maps indicates that we should take more than half of those words, so it's MIL and LAG. From the early parts it looks something like MAGHREB but not quite.

I suppose the answer might be

ALGIERS, if that city can be seen as the flagship of the Maghreb. But probably not.

Some older guesses

Maybe each country is represented by a code, such as its two-letter internet domain or its telephone prefix. Then

taking just half of a country could mean taking just one letter or number from such a code. But that wouldn't explain the significance of flipping some of the half-countries,

so it's probably something else. Maybe codes aren't involved at all and there is some pattern in the given countries which points towards whatever the final one is to be identified. Another option could be

1. CAN/BRA
2. CU/TUR/STAN/LIZ
3. AILA(R)
4. MA/GRE/ECE/LAGU/(A)TI/(E)GLA/FRA/NIG(E)/URAS/HOND/ICE(L)/AILA(R)

The interesting thing here is that

CANBRA is almost CANBERRA,

but it might be a coincidence as I can't make much sense of the rest.

The red dots also need to be taken into account:

some but not all of them are capital cities, some of them have a red + or - next to the dot but some don't.

The cities featured are

Ankara; Canberra; Lisbon, Milan, Algiers, Lagos. I couldn't spot any pattern in these yet.

• 2a is West of Cuba :) (Also Lagos isn't the capital of Nigeria - Abuja is - but it is the largest city...)
– Stiv
Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:18
• @Stiv Thanks! Duh, seems obvious now. Cuba was even one of the countries I checked, but the picture in 2a didn't make sense to me. (Algeria was also a country I kept almost checking and then going "nah, don't bother, I know the shape of that country".) Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:27
• Algeria was the only one I didn't have. I went through every country's silhouette manually on a Sporcle quiz, and just couldn't spot that one at all! The city helps confirm it, I guess...
– Stiv
Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:30
• Okay, thought I should share what I've been working on concurrently, in the hope it might help you get further than me. (I only have a little more...) rot13(PNA/OEN, P/N/A/OEN naq PNAOREEN ner NYY rdhvinyrag v.r. cneg 4 jvyy fcryy fbzrguvat bhg cubargvpnyyl bapr gur evtug yrggref ner vqragvsvrq. V fubhyq nyfb cbvag bhg gung 4Y ynoryf CREGU. Ng gur zbzrag V frr jr pna trg FUVC sebz gur ynfg 4, ohg V'z fgehttyvat gb cnefr gur erfg bs gur fragrapr...)
– Stiv
Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 8:49
• @Stiv Ooh, I'd missed the last red dot. Thanks! I think I've got again a little further than you did, but still not all the way to the solution. Somehow we need to factor in the very first image in the OP too ... Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 9:08

Solving some of the clues first

1a

1b

Brazil

2a (uncertain)

Finland

2b

Russia (does the red point matter)

2c and 2d (?)

3a

SW Australia

4a

Looks like some US/Canada border between states/provinces

4b

Greece

4c

Should be Indonesia

4e

Some city in Italy

4g

Northern part of France, perhaps a province's name?

Next step:

Looks like the next step is to take one letter from 4a-l, giving a 12 letter answer. Not sure how to use Clues 1-3.

• Not my downvote, but some of these are wrong and all of them are incomplete. I'm impressed that you identified 4e though - that was one of the hardest of all those I've identified so far. Commented May 22, 2021 at 12:47