Famous Portuguese Explorers

In the late 15th and early 16th centuries Portugal was the undisputed leader in the European Age of Discovery (also referred to as the Age of Exploration). This period produced many famous Portuguese explorers who took great risk in venturing out into unknown waters. On this page you will discover who these great men were, where they traveled to, why they took such great risk, and other interesting information about them. This information is written so that kids and adults alike will understand.

Henry the Navigator

Born in 1394 AD Henry the Navigator was the third child of King John I of Portugal. He was the driving force behind Portugal's age of exploration. He used his position as governor of the Order of Christ to obtain the funding for voyages. When his father died his brother Edward became king. Edward granted Henry a lot of power in organizing and funding many expeditions. He granted Henry the sole right to approve of expeditions beyond Cape Bojador on the northern coast of the Western Sahara in Africa. Cape Bojador was the most southern point known to Europeans at that time. Under his initiative Portuguese Explorers found water routes to the far east and therefore bypassed the Ottoman Empires blockade of land trade routes to that region. This enabled Portugal to monopolize the Eastern spice trade. Henry over saw expeditions to the New World and Japan resulting in great wealth and influence for Portugal.

Famous Portuguese Explorers Motives for Exploration

List of Famous Portuguese Explorers