Top 10 Greatest World Explorers

The bravest of the brave are the men who sailed the uncharted waters of the open seas in the hopes of furthering the interests of Kings and countries. The best of these were from Portugal and Italy. Spain and England had an incredible sea-faring presence as well. Here are the famous explorers of new worlds and new peoples that discovered the planet with the winds in their sails and fortune as their guides.

10. Pedro Alvares Cabral



Cabral is one of the least celebrated Portugal explorers and yet his discovery of Brazil is an extremely important one. After this successful journey as captain of the Portugal Armada, one of the ships under his command also discovered Madagascar. He lost 11 of his fifteen ships, some of them to storms. He fell from grace over a dispute with Captain Vasco de Gama, who took over the lead of the Revenge Armada. (See number five on this list) Cabral died of Malaria some years later.

9. Ferdinand Magellan



Portugal provided the world with some of the most daring and adventurous explorers in history. Magellan was no exception.This Sabrosa born adventurer later became a subject of Spain in order to explore and serve King Charles I who needed a trade route to advance his throne and country. Magellan led the first expedition to cross the Pacific Ocean after first crossing from the Atlantic. A feat that was considered impossible and it was a major testament to his strength of spirit and leadership. The expedition was the first to circumnavigate the earth completely.


Magellan was killed before the voyage was completed but his crew carried on in the purest form of his commitment and spirit.


8. James Cook



One of the best-known British explorers, Captain James Cook was also an excellent navigator and cartographer. The first person to map part of the coast of Australia, he was part of three expeditions, including the Hawaiian Island expedition that cost him his life. He made several attempts to cross the barren straits and many of his maps were so accurate that they were used well into the 20th century. His campaigns were so successful because he carried with him scientists and recorded thousands of new plants and animals for the King. He also had artists aboard his ships that made numerous drawings of the exotic places he visited or discovered. He was the first person to circumnavigate the Haitian Islands proving they were not part of a larger land mass and made several excursions into the Antarctic waters, something no one else had done before that time. He is known for saying and then actually carrying out this famous line.

“I intend to go farther than any man has before me but as far as I think it possible for a man to go.”


7. John Cabot



John Cabot was an Italian explorer who worked for England, as many Italian explorers did. He actually took one small vessel (The Mathew) and crossed the ocean from Bristol to the new world by traveling first north, where the parallel lines would be shorter. (Smart) He then took five ships and headed out again and at first, it was thought they were lost at sea. However, new evidence has surfaced that indicates four of the ships actually made it and that they built the first Catholic Church ever built in the new world. Nothing has been published yet so it is still under investigation but the English University that is looking into it expects a breakthrough very soon. At least, so I am told.


6. Marco Polo



An explorer that needs no introduction, even children, who have no idea who he is say his name while playing games. “Marco” This form of hide and seek game that people play with their eyes closed is usually played in a swimming pool. “Polo!” The explorer covered 15,000 miles in over 24 years of adventures, which he documented. Traveling mostly in Asia, he was the authoritative voice in all things concerning China for Europeans who, at that time, had no idea what the Asian culture was all about.


Marco Polo inspired Christopher Columbus to visit China for himself, a fact that many historians do not reveal when teaching about the discoverer of the New World.

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