1. Erik the Red (950 – c. 1003)
To call Erik a rough character is something of an understatement. The man who founded the first permanent Nordic settlement in Greenland first explored the island while serving a three-year exile from Iceland for manslaughter.
At the end of his sentence, Erik returned to Iceland, gathered men and ships, and led a colonization effort in 986. His son, Leif Erikson, became a famous explorer in his own right, becoming the first European to reach North American shores, 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
2. Ibn Battuta (1304 – 1368)
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta, often called the Muslim Marco Polo, covered 75,000 miles in his lifetime, outdoing his Venetian counterpart. His travels led him through an astonishing 44 modern countries. Between 1325 and 1354, he was on the move for all but three years.
Born in Tangiers, Ibn Battuta made his first journey at the age of 21, a hajj to Mecca. After that, he didn't stop much, seeing Beijing, Bulgaria, Sri Lanka, Timbuktu, Cairo, Mogadishu and the Maldives, all without the help of trains, airplanes or cars. He recounts his journeys in the simply titled Rihla ("The Journey").