10 most famous travelers and their discoveries

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Today we know almost everything about our planet, every corner of the Earth has been thoroughly explored, described, photographed and found its place in geographical textbooks. And thanks to the active development of tourism, you can visit any exotic countries yourself or even go on a cruise to the shores of Antarctica. But several centuries ago, the only reliable source of knowledge about distant countries and territories were brave travelers who made an invaluable contribution to the development of our planet. Their names and discoveries will forever remain in history. Below we invite you to find out about ten of the most famous travelers.

Ranking of the most famous travelers and their discoveries

Nomination a place Traveler popularity rating
10 most famous travelers and their discoveries 10 Roald Amundsen 4.1
9 David Livingston 4.2
8 Nikolay Miklukho-Maclay 4.3
7 James Cook 4.4
6 Leif Eriksson 4.5
5 Fernand Magellan 4.6
4 Vasco da Gama 4.7
3 Amerigo Vespucci 4.8
2 Christopher Columbus 4.9
1 Marco Polo 5.0

Roald Amundsen

Rating: 4.1

Roald Amundsen

The famous Norwegian traveler, known primarily for his polar expeditions. Since childhood, Roald Amundsen dreamed of becoming a navigator, he was inspired by the example of Rear Admiral John Franklin. He began preparing for the harsh life of a sailor and explorer from his teens, exercising, skiing, and generally leading a Spartan lifestyle. In the course of his training, Amundsen also attended lectures by polar explorer Eivin Astrup, which finally strengthened the young man's determination to devote his life to polar research. But, trying to become a member of the expedition to Franz Josef Land, he was rejected due to lack of experience.

However, Amundsen did not give up, and in 1986, having received the rank of navigator, he went to the Antarctic expedition with the group of Adrien de Gerlache. During this trek, he became the first person in the world to ski across Tu Hammock Island. Together with the team, he was forced to spend thirteen months in the ice of the Southern Ocean, after which they had to return without reaching their goal. A turning point in Amundsen's life came in 1901, when he bought the yacht “Joa” and began to re-prepare for the trip to the South Pole. Together with the crew on a converted fishing yacht, they reached the shores of Antarctica and reached their goal in mid-December, ahead of Captain Robert Scott by several weeks.

Almost the whole life of Roald Amundsen was spent in various expeditions. In 1928, his plane crashed when he went in search of his colleague, Umberto Nobile. The rescuers did not manage to find the researcher himself.

David Livingston

Rating: 4.2

David Livingston

David Livingston is a Scottish missionary who explored Africa and introduced the world to its culture and customs. After receiving his doctorate, he applied to the London Missionary Society, and thus ended up on the African continent, starting his journey from the southern part of it. The first seven years Livingston lived in the country of the Bechuan, on the territory of modern Botswana. Then he had the idea to study the South African rivers to explore new routes deep into Africa. In 1849, he explored the Kalahari Desert and discovered Lake Ngami, then went on a journey along the Zambezi River. David Livingston became the first European to cross the African continent. In 1855, he made one of his greatest discoveries – he discovered a huge waterfall 120 meters high, located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Livingston named it Victoria Falls, after the Queen of England.

A year later, the missionary returned home and published a book there, detailing his research and travels. He was also awarded a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society. Settling off to Africa again, Livingston continued his travels, primarily exploring large rivers. They also discovered the lakes Bangweulu and Mwelu. In 1873, while searching for the source of the Nile, he died of malaria near the village of Chitambo (Zambia). During his lifetime, Livingston earned himself the fame of a tireless traveler and received the nickname “Great Lion” from the locals, and after his death left behind a lot of invaluable information about Africa.

Nikolay Miklukho-Maclay

Rating: 4.3

Nikolay Miklukho-Maclay

The famous Russian traveler and scientist who made a huge contribution to the study of the indigenous peoples of Oceania, Australia and Southeast Asia. In his youth, Miklouho-Maclay was educated in Germany, was an assistant to the naturalist Ernst Haeckel. On his return to Russia, he managed to convince the Russian Geographical Society of the need to explore the Pacific territories, and in the fall of 1870 he sailed to New Guinea on the Vityaz warship. Miklouho-Maclay explained his choice of location by the fact that on these islands the primitive society is of exceptional ethnographic and anthropological value, since it was least of all influenced by civilization.

The Russian researcher lived among the Papuans for over a year, getting to know their customs, way of everyday life and religious rites. In 1872, Miklouho-Maclay bypassed the Philippine and a number of other islands of the Pacific Ocean on the Emerald clipper. Two years later, he returned to New Guinea and lived for some time in its western part, and from 1876 he went to study Western Micronesia and the islands of Melanesia. Miklouho-Maclay was known not only as a scientist, but also as a humanist, public figure, fighter for the rights of natives and an opponent of slavery. He spent the last years of his life in St. Petersburg.

James Cook

Rating: 4.4

James Cook

The sailor, known for their three round-the-world voyages, during which new territories were discovered and detailed maps of the islands of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, as well as the coast of Newfoundland, Australia and New Zealand were compiled. James Cook was born and raised in a farmer's family, but against his father's wishes, he decided to become a sailor. From the age of 18 he worked as a cabin boy, then rose to the rank of officer, took part in the Seven Years War.

In 1768, the British government decided to send a scientific expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean. This difficult task was entrusted to the already experienced navigator James Cook. He became captain of the three-masted ship “Endeavor” and was ordered to head for the Tahiti Islands in order to observe the passage of Venus through the solar disk, which would allow calculating the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Also, the mission, in addition to the astronomical one, had another goal – to find the southern continent. During this voyage, Cook discovered New Zealand and explored the east coast of Australia. A few years later, the second expedition took place, which was accompanied by a number of discoveries: Norfolk Island, Caledonia, South Sandwich Islands. It was followed by a third, during which Hawaii was discovered. In Hawaii, an armed clash broke out between members of the ship and the local population, resulting in the death of Cook. During his voyages, the captain managed to create such accurate and detailed maps that they remained relevant until the middle of the 19th century.

Leif Eriksson

Rating: 4.5

Leif Eriksson

The legendary Scandinavian navigator is considered the first European in history to set foot on the coast of the North American continent. Leif Eriksson, nicknamed “Happy”, grew up in the family of Viking Erik the Red, the discoverer of Greenland. Around 1000 A.D. he met the Norwegian Bjarni Herjulfsson, from whom he heard the story of the unknown western lands. Eager to make a discovery and find new territories for the settlement of his fellow tribesmen, Eriksson acquired a ship, assembled a team and hit the road.

During this trip, he discovered three regions of Canada. The first coast that met the sailors was Baffin's land, which the Scandinavians called Helluland (stone). The next was the Labrador Peninsula, which received from them the name Markland, which means “forest land”. And finally, the third, the most attractive coast of the island of Newfoundland, which Ericsson and his people called Vinland, that is, “fertile land.” There they founded a small settlement and stayed for the winter. Upon returning to his homeland, Leif instructed his sibling, Thorvald, to continue his exploration of Vinland. However, the second expedition of the descendants of the Vikings to the North American shores collapsed as they had to retreat after fierce clashes with the Canadian Indian tribe.

Fernand Magellan

Rating: 4.6

Fernand Magellan

The first explorer in the world to travel around the world and make a number of important discoveries. Magellan was born in Portugal to a noble family. His first naval expedition took place in 1505, when he went to India with the squadron of Francisco de Almeida. Soon Magellan had a plan to undertake a voyage to the Molucco Islands in the hope of finding a western route to them. Unable to achieve the consent of the Portuguese monarch, he turned with the same request to the king of Spain and eventually received five ships at his disposal. In 1519, Magellan's expedition left the harbor.

After a year of sailing, Fernand Magellan with his flotilla reached the shores of South America, where he was forced to stay in the harbor for the winter. In the same year, he discovered the strait, later named after him, and went out into the ocean. For almost four months of sailing on uncharted waters, the travelers never caught up with a storm, so they decided to call this ocean the Pacific. The expedition reached the Mariana Archipelago, then the Philippine Islands were discovered. This point became the final destination in Magellan's voyage, since he was killed during a battle with the tribe of the island of Mactan. Only one ship returned to Spain, bringing news of great discoveries.

Vasco da Gama

Rating: 4.7

Vasco da Gama

Portuguese navigator, discoverer of the sea route to India, and the first European to set foot on Indian soil. Vasco da Gama grew up in a noble family and received an education, while still young he went to the navy. He proved himself in battles with the French corsairs and managed to earn the favor of King Manuel the First, who instructed him to lead an expedition to India. Three ships and more than 170 crew members were involved in the trip. Vasco da Gama set sail in 1497, by December of the same year they managed to reach the shores of South Africa, and six months later the ships landed on the Indian coast. Although the travelers' plans to establish trade with the locals were not successful, they were greeted with honor at home, and da Gama was appointed admiral of the Indian Ocean.

During his life, Vasco da Gama made two more voyages to India. The purpose of the second expedition was to establish Portuguese trading posts in new territories. The third time he went there in 1502 to strengthen the power of the Portuguese government and fight corruption in the colonial administration. The navigator spent his last years in India.

Amerigo Vespucci

Rating: 4.8

Amerigo Vespucci

Florentine navigator and merchant, who first put forward the theory that the part of the world discovered by Christopher Columbus is a new, previously unknown continent. In his youth, Amerigo Vespucci graduated from a prestigious university, later worked in the Medici trading and banking house. In 1499, he joined the ship's crew under the command of the Spanish admiral Alonso de Ojeda. The purpose of the expedition was to explore the lands of the New World.

During this voyage, Vespucci acted as a navigator, geographer and cartographer. He described in detail all the details regarding the terrain, flora and fauna of the new lands, meetings with the natives, and also made a map of the starry sky. Subsequently, he took part in another expedition, 1503, during which he commanded a small ship. Vespucci was the first explorer to study a significant part of the Brazilian coast.

Christopher Columbus

Rating: 4.9

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus is best known as the discoverer of America, although he made other important discoveries during his life. He grew up in a poor family, but received a good education. In 1470 he took part in trade sea expeditions. Columbus's main dream was to find a sea route to India across the Atlantic. He repeatedly turned to the European monarchs for help in organizing and financing the expedition, but only in 1492 received consent from the Spanish queen Isabella.

Having received three ships at his disposal and having assembled a team of volunteers, Christopher Columbus set sail. He discovered the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti. This was followed by a second expedition, during which Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles and the Virgin Islands were discovered. In 1498, Columbus embarked on a third voyage, which resulted in the exploration of the island of Trinidad. And finally, in 1502, he managed to obtain permission from the King of Spain for the fourth expedition, during which Columbus's ships reached the shores of Central America. Throughout his subsequent life, Christopher Columbus was sure that the land he discovered was connected to Asia, and he nevertheless found a sea route to India.

Marco Polo

Rating: 5.0

Marco Polo

One of the most famous travelers who inspired many discoverers, including Christopher Columbus. Marco Polo grew up in the family of a Venetian merchant and from an early age was accustomed to accompany him on his travels, while searching for new trade routes. In 1271, the Pope sent them to China, appointing them as his official representatives. After a five-year expedition through Asia Minor, Persia and Kashmir, the Polo family reached the residence of Kublai Khan, ruler of the Mongolian state of Yuan, of which China was at that time. The young and brave Marco immediately fell in love with the Khan, so he decided to leave the travelers at his court, where they spent the next 17 years.

In 1291, Khubilai commissioned the Polo family to accompany the flotilla that transported the Mongol princess to Persia, where she was to become the wife of the Persian shah. But during the trip, the news came about the death of the Shah, after which the Polo decided to return to Venice. Soon after returning home, Marco took part in the war with Genoa and was captured by the Genoese. While imprisoned, he met the Italian writer Rusticello, who recorded a detailed account of his amazing adventures and life in China.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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