Marco Polo: The Greatest Explorer In History?

by Jules on September 6, 2013

Venetian adventurer Marco Polo traversed the globe for 24 years, travelling from Europe to Asia and we celebrate his birthday on 15 September. The exact year of Marco Polo’s birth is uncertain, although it’s thought to be circa 1254.

The Travels of Marco Polo

Just the mere mention of the name ‘Marco Polo’ conjures up vivid images of rugged travel adventures across vast mysterious lands. And although his birth is thought to have occurred more than 750 years ago, his legacy and incredible feats have inspired many travellers over the years, including one Christopher Columbus!

Born in Venice in Italy, Marco Polo was raised by his close family and educated on the subjects of currencies, trading, languages and cargo ships. He didn’t meet his father until he was 15, as he’d been travelling as a merchant trader. He arrived with tales of exotic faraway lands, curious cultures and mesmerising dynasties. You could say that exploring was in Marco Polo’s blood from birth.

Aged seventeen, Marco Polo, his father and uncle set sail for Asia in a journey that would last for 24 years and cover more than 15,000 miles (24,000 km). He also became one of the most beloved (if not the first) travel journalist, penning ‘Il Milione’ better known as ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ in English. In fact the book is still in print and is dubbed the first great travel book within Western literature. Pick up a copy as he recounts vivid tales of heady spices, rare jewels, colourful characters and exotic animals.

Marco Polo journeyed to the eastern court of the Mongol Empire of Kublai Khan via the Western Galilee city of Acre, the Kingdom of Ormuz in the Persian Gulf and Kashgar on the China border. In all the epic journey lasted twenty four years, with 17 years spent in Cathay (China). Marco Polo’s diary told of his dangerous and exhausting encounters with fierce mountain ranges, death-defying avalanches, debilitating sandstorms, wicked floods and torrential rain storms.

The trio covered ancient Turkey, Ukraine, the rugged Caucasus mountains of Georgia and Armenia and the now-legendary Silk Road. This great trade route led the family into Iraq, Iran and Uzbekistan and further overland into the fierce Gobi Desert of Mongolia and finally the little-known land of China. Il Milione tells of encounters with fearsome crocodiles in the Pagan Kingdom of Burma (Myanmar) and wild yaks as big as elephants in the Karakorum mountain range.

You too can travel sections of Marco Polo’s epic journey – although in slightly less time than 24 years!

Map Image Credit; Travels_of_Marco_Polo.svg

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment