The Travels by Marco Polo: travel book review

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ September 6th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Reviews.
The Travels by Marco Polo book cover

The Travels by Marco Polo real history as told by the man himself

Marco Polo, one of the first great recorded travelers

In search of travelogues I decided to go in search of one of the most renown travelers in history to see if he could instill the passion of personal travel into writing. Faced with several different versions I went straight to Marco Polo’s own account of his travels.

Translated by R.E. Latham this is the account in Marco Polo’s own words of his travels since 1271. While it may not be the very first “travelogue” it certainly does come close. But is it any good?

Who was Marco Polo?

Just a brief recap on who Marco Polo was. Born into a trading family in 1254 Venice, Marco Polo became one of the world’s first great recorded travelers. An epic journey of discovery and trade from Europe to Asia he became a diplomat of sorts for both the Pope and Kulbali Khan. While all the while being a merchant trader at heart.

Returning to Europe after 24 years he was imprisoned during the Genoa war. Released, he returned to a successful trading career. Marco Polo died in 1324 and is buried in the Church of San Lorenzo, Italy.

Marco Polo was an inspiration to Christopher Columbus. An explorer who helped shape modern-day cartography across Europe and Asia. He was a diplomat, trader, merchant and epic traveler.

What is “The Travels” by Marco Polo like to read?

If you are looking for a page turning book of adventure then you will not find it here. This book is quite literally a translation of Marco Polo’s journal. As such what you are reading will be Marco Polo’s accounts in his own words, from that time period.

Be prepared for texts such as:

“When the traveller leaves the city of Kaidu, he rides for ten days through a country not lacking in towns and villages, and well stocked with game, both bird and beast.”

Light reading it is not. It is the exploration of unexplored lands from another time and written as such. That said, due to this very nature of the book it can give those interested a fascinating look at life in other countries from that time period.

Writing from Yunnan China on what happens after a woman gives birth:

When a woman gives birth to child, she washes and swaddles him.  Then her husband goes to bed and takes the baby with him and lies in bed for forty days without leaving it except for necessary purposes.

An insightful read into a different world

Marco Polo’s The Travels is a unique read. It’s one if not the first well documented travelogues from a man who worked the original silk routes.  It’s a look at a snippet of time at a man who had a unique position in the world and one whom liaises with some famous world characters.

Purchase options (it’s selling at very reasonable prices):

If you’d like to buy this book, please consider purchasing it through my Amazon affiliate stores below: I get a tiny, tiny commission of about USD$00.14. Maybe enough to one day save up and buy a Kindle so I can keep these books with me as I travel.

The Travels of Marco Polo (
The Travels -Classics- (

Due to Amazon’s system I can only realistically offer the .com and distributors. To readers outside of these two Amazon zones please try your local listings!

If you’d like to read some more travel reviews on books, movies and guides I’ve read then please visit my travel book review section.

Have you read this or another really good travelogue? If you have, can you leave the name of the book in the comments, I am always on the look out for good travelogues!

This is an additional travel book review based on books I’ve read throughout my journey

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9 Great responses to The Travels by Marco Polo: travel book review

  1. Debbie says:

    Amazed to read that quote on childbirth back then! Is there much more about family life back then in it?

  2. Malcom says:

    I’m not sure you’ll be able to find this. But Burton Holmes Travelogues: The Greatest Traveler of His Time seems to be up your street. It’s a big book with lots of photos from a traveler before modern technology came about. Fascinating.

  3. regina says:

    Reading it was like dipping into a fascinating many-faceted, far faraway past. I wish I could have figured out the correlation between the names of places then and now though..

    Some of my favorite oldies:
    Waugh Abroad- Collected Travel Writings- Evelyn Waugh
    My Journey to Lhasa- Alexandra David-Neel
    Sailing Alone Around The World- Joshua Slocum
    Mark Twain’s- with reservations!

  4. Priyank says:

    Hi Dave,
    I wish some day I could go back and travel with him, the world would be so different! Different widgets superficially but the same people underneath.
    cheers, Priyank

  5. Mandy says:

    Right now I’m on this book, A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani. Making very slow progress, so far I’ve only read till chapter 4 but find it interesting.