Marco Polo with elephants and camels in the Gulf of Persia from India. Miniature from the book, The Travels of Marco Polo. Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a Venetian merchant traveler and the most famous Westerner to have traveled on the Silk Road. He excelled all the other travelers in his determination, his writing, and his influence. His journey through Asia lasted 24 years. He reached further than any of his predecessors, beyond Mongolia to China. He became a confidant of Kublai Khan (1214-1294). He traveled the whole of China and returned to tell the tale, which became the greatest travelogue, called The Travels of Marco Polo, that spilled over with sex, violence, suspense, exotic lands, strange people, bizarre practices, eluding marauders, surviving shipwrecks and crossing treacherous deserts. In 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness. He died in January of 1324.