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Who is the world's greatest traveller?

There's some consensus about the greatest movie ever - it's almost always Citizen Kane. And the accolade for best song always seems to go to Bohemian Rhapsody. But what about the world's top traveller?

In a bid to discover the Citizen Kane/Freddie Mercury of the travel world - and provoke a bit of healthy debate - Wanderlust asked a selection of experts to pick the person who has most changed the way we travel. We've whittled it down to a manageable shortlist, giving them marks out of ten for various aspects of their travel CVs. But do you agree...?

10. Aphra Behn (1640-1689)

First English woman to make a living by the pen; possibly the world's greatest armchair traveller.

Nominated by Dea Birkett, travel writer: "Aphra Behn was groundbreaking, claiming to have sailed to Suriname in the 1660s. Yet 300 years after writing Oronooko, her powerful anti-slavery novel set in Suriname, we still don't know if she went to South America or not. She started the tradition of European travellers grossly exaggerating and lying about what they'd done. We've been fictionalising ever since."

Travelling style: 6
Mysterious, incognito - she often travelled as a spy, and in the 17th-century equivalent of economy class.

Places visited: 2
Suriname (probably), Antwerp, the Netherlands. Her plays suggest knowledge of Italy - though this may be the fruit of her stupendous imagination.

Hardships suffered: 5
Rumour suggests she lost family members in Suriname and was once shipwrecked.

Changed-the-world rating: 7
Helped invent the English novel and the travel memoir. Oronooko is fictional, one of the first great exotic travel narratives and an indictment of slavery - an unusual mix today, this must have seemed outlandish 300 years ago.

9. Michael Palin (1943 to date)

Affable Python and actor who went from spoofing Alan Whicker to replacing him as TV's foremost traveller.

Nominated by Charlotte Hindle, Lonely Planet author: "He's done more than anyone else to bring the world into everyone's living room."

Travelling style: 9
Intrepid, good-humoured Englishman abroad, self-confessed dromomaniac - one who suffers from the compulsive urge to travel.

Places visited: 8
Around the world in 80 days, pole to pole, around the Pacific Rim, across the Sahara and through the Himalayas.

Hardships suffered: 3
Cracked ribs, altitude sickness, getting a cut-throat shave from a blind barber, being mistaken for Eric Idle, having his car rocked by an angry mob.

Changed-the-world rating: 4
The surges in bookings that follow his televised travels are known as the 'Palin effect'. Travel on TV once meant Judith Chalmers wishing you were there; Palin turned travel into a prime-time attraction and made the world a more exciting, yet accessible, place.

8. Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968)

Starman - the first man in space - who became the man who fell to earth, dying in a crash on a routine flight.

Nominated by Mark Ellingham, Rough Guides founder: "He took the greatest leap into the unknown since Columbus - or at least since Laika, Sputnik 2's dog."

Travelling style: 8
Focused and fearless. On 12 April 1961 Yuri was blasted into space in crude terms - in a seat on top of a tin can, which was itself on top of a bomb.

Places visited: 8
Around the earth and 315km above it.

Hardships suffered: 7
In training he withstood 13Gs of force in the centrifuge and sat in a dark, silent, room for 24 hours. Being grounded after his historic flight drove him to drink.

Changed-the-world rating: 8
Fuelled the space race. With space tourism still somewhere between a prophecy and a joke, we haven't seen the full impact of Gagarin's heroism.

7. Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)

Skier, oceanographer, humanitarian, godfather of polar exploration; has an asteroid named after him.

Nominated by Pen Hadow, explorer: "Nansen was the first to cross the Greenland ice cap and the Arctic Ocean, and sailed further north than man had been before."

Travelling style: 9
Determined, methodical, brave but not reckless - he never lost a single man or major piece of equipment on his expeditions.

Places visited: 6
Skied across Norway with a dog, crossed Greenland and travelled 255km further north than any man had hitherto been.

Hardships suffered: 6
Endured nine winter months with a colleague in a hut made of stones and walrus hides in Franz Josef Land, eating polar bear and walrus.

Changed-the-world rating: 7 Technologically revolutionised polar exploration, inventing a cooker and water bottle still used today. If Shackleton or Scott had heeded Nansen's advice about skis, they might have reached the South Pole. He, more than anyone, opened up the unknown Arctic quarter.

6. Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Founder of evolutionary theory.

Nominated by William Gray, TV presenter and travel writer: "Charles Darwin discovered many species, while his observations during his epic voyage on the Beagle formed the bedrock of his theory of evolution through natural selection."

Travelling style: 5
Argumentative, often sea-sick yet determined, blessed with an inexhaustible curiosity and liked to discover a species or three.

Places visited: 7
Across the Atlantic, Pacific, both coasts of South America, remote islands such as the Galápagos and Tahiti. He also rode across the Argentinean plains, hiked up mountains and trekked through the Peruvian desert.

Hardships suffered: 8
Stomach pains, mal de mer, vomiting, heart palpitations, severe boils, storms and revolution in Buenos Aires.

Changed-the-world rating: 9
He simply changed the way we think.

5. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

The most controversial explorer in history.

Nominated by Bill Bryson, travel writer: "Christopher Columbus didn't actually discover America (or see what became the United States), but he opened the door to the European exploration (and exploitation) of two mighty continents."

Travelling style: 7
Visionary, fearless, neurotic, ruthless. Only stopped travelling when fatally ill.

Places visited: 7
Four voyages across the Atlantic, around the Mediterranean and, possibly, to Iceland.

Hardships suffered: 9
Arthritis, flu, temporary blindness, fever, bleeding eyes, malnutrition, chronic insomnia, mutinous crew. On his fourth voyage he was so ill he gave orders lying in a 'doghouse he had constructed on the poop deck'.

Changed-the-world rating: 10
"He was at the head of the horde that introduced yellow fever, dengue, malaria, smallpox, measles, diptheria, typhoid, influenza and a few others to the Americas," says Wanderlust's Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth. "In exchange, they probably brought back syphilis." He paved the way for Spain's global empire, genocidal conflict with the indigenous cultures, slavery (Columbus sent hundreds of natives back to Spain as slaves) and the European settlement of North America.

4. Ibn Battuta (1304-1368 or 1377)

Medieval geographer who made Marco Polo look like someone who really ought to get out more. Nominated by Jonny Bealby, managing director of Wild Frontiers. Susan Spano, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, says: "His tale is a wild but true yarn that surpasses that of Marco Polo."

Travelling style: 7
A charming freeloader, resilient, brave, often accompanied by slave women (by whom he had children), a bit of a fussbudget and teller of tall tales.

Places visited: 9
Travelled more than 120,000km, through regions that, today, comprise 44 countries, from Italy to Indonesia, Timbuktu to Shanghai.

Hardships suffered: 5
Being mugged, attacked by pirates, held hostage, once hid in a swamp for seven days without food.

Changed-the-world rating: 6
Ibn Battuta was the last great Muslim geographer. His long-neglected work offers an unparalleled insight into the 14th century Muslim world and a rare perspective on the medieval empire of Mali. He was arguably the real precursor to Columbus, a heroic voyager who wanted to travel so far he couldn't retrace his steps.

3. Sir Richard Burton (1821-90)

Diplomat, fencer and explorer; man of towering intellect.

Nominated by John Gimlette, travel writer: "While others travelled to blow off family cash, for Sir Richard Burton it was all an exercise in comprehension. He constantly challenged convention, and left readers gasping at descriptions of Sioux punishments (adulterers had their noses bitten off), trial marriage (Utah) and the bloodiest war mankind has ever known (Paraguay, 1870)."

Travelling style: 1
"Disloyal, waspish, foul-mouthed, scruffy, drunken and misogynistic, he was the worst of travelling companions," says Gimlette. But he was seldom short of courage, ideas or a word - he knew 30 languages and 60 sounds in the vocabulary of monkeys.

Places visited: 6
India, Arabia, east Africa, Fernando Po, Brazil, Syria, the Mormon parts of the American West and Trieste.

Hardships suffered: 10
A spear struck through his jaw, syphilis, malaria, rheumatic ophthalmia, attacked by bandits, smoked too much opium, consumed too much bhang (a drink derived from hemp) and was circumcised to make his disguise as a Muslim more convincing.

Changed-the-world rating: 6
Burton may have been the first modern anthropologist (he co-founded the Anthropological Society of London) and helped Speke discover the source of the Nile. His feat in becoming only the second European to visit Mecca, inspired - for good and ill - countless explorers. His translation of the Arabian Nights opened up a mysterious - and still misunderstood - culture to the West.

2. Xuanzang (602-644 or 664)

Chinese Buddhist monk who went on the mother of all pilgrimages and pioneered travel writing.

Nominated by Michael Palin: "Xuanzang travelled alone on a pilgrimage to discover the origins of Buddhism. The scope, scale and significance of these travels for Chinese and Indian history have never been equalled."

Travelling style: 10
"He was curious, courteous, determined, intelligent and courageous," says Palin. "An inspirational traveller and top man."

Places been: 7
Xian, the deserts and mountains of western China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, all of India.

Hardships suffered: 7
Carried out at least one hunger strike, often caught by bandits, nearly died of thirst, survived an avalanche.

Changed-the-world rating: 7
"He left a priceless legacy in the record of his journeys and translations of Buddhist writings that might otherwise have been lost," says Palin. Wanderlust photographer and author Steve Davey says: "Ostensibly a pilgrim and teacher, Xuanzang was probably one of the first travel writers." Much of what we know about the geography of Buddha's life comes from his writing.

1. Captain James Cook (1728-1779)

Indefatigable explorer and navigator who had all the essential traveller's virtues - until he went a bit funny at the end.

Nominated by Sarah Wheeler, travel writer: "Captain Cook discovered more of the earth's surface than any other man and excelled as a world-class scientist, cartographer and surveyor. He was also bad-tempered - I like a touch of clay feet in a hero."

Travelling style: 9
Precise - an excellent navigator, he always drew up accurate charts. Indomitable - when his ship, the Endeavour, ran aground in the Coral Sea, he beached and repaired it. Shrewd - he averted scurvy by forcing his crew to eat fruit and sauerkraut. Open-minded - his notes show genuine interest in other cultures.

Places visited: 10
Around the earth twice, visited all seven continents and crossed both the Arctic and Antarctic circles.

Hardships suffered: 10
Sailed with Captain Bligh, recovered from biliary colic by eating stew made from a ship's dog (the only source of meat on board), was clubbed to death in Hawaii.

Changed-the-world rating: 8
Finding Australia and mapping New Zealand, he essentially created the map of the Pacific we know today, and anticipated ethnology and anthropology. His aim to go 'farther than any man has been before me but only as far as I think it possible for a man to go' is an inspiration to every traveller.