Kemaliye is a town with a population of about 2,000 in northwestern part of Eastern Anatolia, on the Western Euphrates River (also known as the Karasu River), close to the Karanlık Kanyon.
The town is known for its historic architecture, including many Ottoman-era houses. It is also notable for its commanding view of the Euphrates flowing south through a gorge above the Keban Dam.
In the local area the town is still colloquially known by its former name, Eğin, from Old Armenian Akn ("water spring"). On request of town elders, it was renamed in 1922 in honour of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, whom the locals supported with 500 cavalrymen during the recent War of Independence. The locals are equally proud of both names, and use them interchangably, or even simultaneously, as in the town council emblem.
Before the 1920s, the town was home to a Hayhurum community, which formed a large minority of the local population. With origins in the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, Hayhurums ("Roman Armenians") spoke Armenian but were of Greek Orthodox faith (unlike the majority of Armenians, who has belonged to the Armenian Apostolic Church). As such, they were subjected to the Greek-Turkish population exchange carried out after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire: one account portrays how they trekked for months across Anatolia to the Aegean coastline, from where they were ferried across to the island of Euboea and founded a village they dubbed "New Egin" there.
There are direct buses from Istanbul via Ankara, as infrequent extensions to the services of the local drivers affiliated with companies based in larger regional cities, such as Malatya and Elazığ. Elazığ Murat Turizm is one such company, with services twice a week, 400 TL from Istanbul (16-17 hrs) and 350 TL from Ankara (Jul 2022).
The Touristic Doğu Express stops in İliç for a couple of hours where you can book a tour to go to Kemaliye before going back to the train. The Touristic Doğu Express is not operating as of 2022.
The Doğu Express (non-tourist train) (from Ankara via Kayseri, Sivas, and Divriği eastwards, from Kars via Erzurum and Erzincan westwards) stops in Bağıştaş from where you can take a taxi. You can also take a local train leaving Divriği at 05:05 or 15:45 that stops in Bağıştaş (18 TL, 2022). This is the closest train station (30 km from Kemaliye). Then you will likely have to take a taxi as minibuses are infrequent. If you plan to stay for the night, before taking the train, ask your hotel to book you the taxi. As of 2022, the price should be around 200 TL for a one-way drive.
D877 is the main approach to the town. Its northern terminus is at Refahiye, where it connects to D100/E80 (east to Erzincan and Erzurum, west to Niksar, Amasya, and eventually Istanbul) as well as to D200/E88 (west to Ankara through Sivas). In the south, D877 terminates at Arapgir, connecting to D260 (east to Elazığ, west to Divriği and Sivas). A secondary, and much more adventurous approach from Divriği is the "Stone Road" (Taş Yol), a series of tight tunnels manually dug from the 1870s, high over the gorge of the Euphrates.
The town centre comprises preserved historic mansions, with stone ground floors and wooden upper levels.
The village of Apçağa, 5 km south on the road to Arapgir, is similarly laden with traditional architecture, and offers views over Kemaliye and the valley.
The world's second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon, the Dark Canyon, is flooded by foreign tourists. The Dark Canyon starts at the 3rd kilometer from Kemaliye city center in the direction of Erzincan. The Dark Canyon forms the most magnificent parts of the Blackwater Valley. Dark Canyon reaches heights of 750-800 m from the river surface.
Do a boat tour on the Euphrates and go to Karanlık Kanyon.
The Dark Canyon hosts sports activities such as base jump, rock climbing, canoeing and boat safari. Base jump athletes make a free fall from here and then open their paragliders and land on the specially prepared ground on the river bank.
On the Via Farrata (Iron Road) track with 517 steps to Eğin Rock, on which Kemaliye rests, athletes can climb with safe equipment was put into service in the company of guides.