Lesson Plans: Grades 3-5

Lesson 7: On the Road with Marco Polo: From Hormuz to Venice


The Lesson


A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

A map of Marco Polo's route to and from China.

In the 13th century, a young Venetian named Marco Polo set out with his father and uncle on a great adventure. Following a series of trade routes, they traveled across the vast continent of Asia and became the first Europeans to visit the Chinese capital (modern Beijing). Marco so impressed the reigning emperor of China, Kublai Khan, that he was appointed to the imperial court. For the next 17 years, Marco was sent on missions to many parts of Kublai's sprawling empire. The Polos finally returned to Venice via the sea route. Marco later wrote a book about his experiences, which inspired new generations of explorers to travel to the exotic lands of the East.

Guiding Questions

  • What route did Marco Polo follow from Hormuz back to Venice?
  • What sorts of natural environments did he travel through?
  • What were the major products of the places he visited?

Learning Objectives

  • Become familiar with the geography and early history of Turkey
  • Become familiar with Constantinople and its historical importance

Preparation Instructions

Read through the entire lesson plan and become familiar with the content and resources. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. From Hormuz to Venice

Marco Polo was on the last leg of his journey home from China to Venice. After visiting several seaports in India, he and his party sailed across the Arabian Sea and to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, landing at the port city of Hormuz. Marco had visited Hormuz with his father and uncle many years before when they were on their way to China. At that time, they had considered a sea route too dangerous and decided instead to travel eastward across Asia following a land route. Perhaps they were right—by the time they arrived in Hormuz on their journey home, nearly all of the 600 people who had set out with them from China had perished! Historians attribute this to a combination of storms, disease, and combat with hostile natives encountered along the way.

After delivering the Mongol princess they were escorting to the Persian court, the Polos trekked northward through Persia and Armenia (part of modern Turkey) to the Black Sea.

  • Go to The Silk Road. Scroll in the margin to Maps, then Route Maps, then Marco Polo to trace the Polos' route from Hormuz to the Black Sea. Once the Polos reached the Black Sea, they traveled westward along the southern coast until they arrived at the city of Constantinople (modern Istanbul). In the 13th century, Constantinople was a major trading port as well a center of art and architecture.
  • Access map machine/Turkey available through Xpeditions. In what way does the geography of this region differ from that of the land further south (modern Iraq)?
  • Go to map machine/Istanbul available through Xpeditions. The city is located on a strait linking it to two major bodies of water (the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea). Why did this make it an ideal site for trade?
  • Access Constantinople in the Middle Ages available through Labyrinth. In medieval times, the city was protected by high stone walls. Why did the citizens had to worry about enemy attacks? (Think about the profits that come from trade.)
  • Go to Creation of the Walls. How many sets of walls were built around the city?
Guiding Questions for Discussion:
  • What route did the Polos take from Hormuz to Constantinople?
  • What is the geography like in northern Turkey?
  • What was the importance of Constantinople in medieval times?
  • Can you describe the city's location?
  • What were the outer walls like?

The most famous building in Constantinople was the Hagia Sophia. It remains one of the most impressive churches in the world.

Learn about the Hagia Sophia by visiting the following websites (available through Labyrinth):

Guiding Questions for Discussion:
  • What was/is the Hagia Sophia?
  • How would you describe the architecture of the church?
  • When was the church built?

Marco and his father and uncle boarded a trading ship in Constantinople and sailed home to Venice. This final lap of their long journey from China was an easy voyage on the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Go to Marco Polo's Route: and follow his route from Constantinople to Venice.
  • Access Europe. Find Istanbul (Constantinople) and Venice. Trace Marco's route from Istanbul to Venice.
Guiding Questions for Discussion:
  • What ancient country did Marco sail around on the way from Constantinople to Venice?
  • What seas (small sections of the Mediterranean) did he sail through?


Have the students write a short essay about Constantinople. It can be illustrated with images downloaded from the websites visited in this lesson or by original drawings.

The Basics

Time Required

1-2 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Art and Culture > Subject Matter > Anthropology
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Medieval World (500 CE-1500 CE)
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Asia
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Cultural analysis
  • Discussion
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Logical reasoning
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Map Skills
  • Visual analysis
  • Suzanne Art (AL)