Tourism industry is pretty much a modern concept. However, the act of visiting foreign countries for leisure and legacy is already existent in ancient times. In fact, rulers of the early historical ages value the influx of peaceful pilgrims and traders who make their lands known to strangers.

Just like the travel bloggers of our time, historical adventurers also wrote encouraging volumes about their journeys abroad. These are the greatest ancient travelers that define tourism in ancient times:


This Buddhist monk wrote extensively about the interaction between India and China during the latter's early Tang Dynasty era (600 AD). Driven by the religious fervor, Xuanzang traveled to India for a 17-year pilgrimage. His journey took him as far as Nepal and modern-day Bangladesh. Xuanzang was the inspiration behind the Ming Dynasty epic tale titled "Journey to the West."  

Marco Polo

As a figure of the Renaissance Europe, Marco Polo is one of the unforgettable names in history. This 13th Century Venetian merchant was famous for navigating through the Silk Road, as well as being the first European to allegedly join the imperial court of China. Several modern literary works describe his camaraderie with Kublai Khan. Among these includes the prematurely canceled Netflix TV series "Marco Polo."

Ibn Battuta

This 12th Century Moroccan explorer is one of the greatest ancient travelers of his time, if not at all the greatest of all time. Ibn Battuta has practically explored the entire Islamic world, including other foreign lands such as North Africa, West Africa, Southeast Asia, India, and China. His illustrious name has become a common moniker for every adventurous Arab that followed his footsteps.

Christopher Columbus

Inspired by the works of Marco Polo and Pliny the Elder, the Genoese adventurer convinced the Spanish monarchs to invest in his dream of finding a new sea route to Asia. His voyage took him to North America and the Caribbean. Although he was not the first explorer to set foot in the modern-day United States, he was credited with establishing the first permanent European colony in the New World.  

Lewis & Clark

Every (educated) American recognizes Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as the first historical adventurers to have explored the entre western hemisphere of the United States. The Lewis & Clark Expedition continues to be a symbolic inspiration for future explorations to unknown frontiers.