Most people have heard of the explorer Marco Polo but do you know much about him?

This Italian traveller journeyed to the Far East with his merchant father Nicolo and uncle Maffeo in 1271, when he was 17 years old.

They crossed Persia to the Chinese border, went on through the Hindu Kush and the Pamir mountains and across the Gobi desert by camel caravan to the court of Kublai Khan.

This journey took three and a half years, but Marco Polo joined the service of Kublai Khan and remained there for the next 17 years. His father and uncle also stayed on as military advisers.

During his years working as a diplomat for Kublai Khan, Marco travelled extensively throughout Mongolia, China, Tibet, Burma, Siberia and as far south as Indonesia.

Eventually in 1292 the Polos left China as they were unsure of their security in a changing empire under an aging Kublai Khan.

They arrived home in 1295, very rich men, from trading the jewels they had smuggled out of China with them.

Marco Polo went on to serve as a captain in the Venetian fleet and was taken prisoner by the Genoese in 1298. During the next year he dictated the story of his travels to fellow prisoner Rusticello of Pisa.

The Travels of Marco Polo are perhaps the world’s greatest travel tales. The travels he detailed provided a great source of information about the places and people of China and the Far East for other explorers. He is said to have inspired Christopher Columbus to set sail in 1492.

Marco Polo married and had three daughters. He lived in Venice until he died at the age of 70.