Kemaliye Taş Yolu is one of the most extreme roads in the world. Located in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey, this handmade road is extremely challenging, with drops of hundreds of meters unprotected by guardrails and 22 unlit and extremely narrow tunnels. The construction of the road started in 1870 and finished in 2002.
Kemaliye Taş Yolu (Stone road of Kemaliye) is located between the İliç and Kemaliye districts of Erzincan Province, in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. The drive above the canyon is spectacular and hair raising with the raging Euphrates river hundreds of meters below. Imagine a breathtaking wild gorge in steep rocky mountains, a deep green river, colourful gardens, forests, cosy stone and wooden houses, waterfalls, fresh mountain air and warmhearted locals... The road finds its way through the rocks, above the dangerous Kemaliye Karanlık Kanyon. It is surreal. This is a river and walls of rocks on each side. Tucked away in the Munzur Mountains, the road runs south-north from a tunnel on the paved D877 towards Gümüşçeşme.
The most challenging part of the journey is 8.7km (5.40 miles) long. The road is mostly unpaved. Its construction started in 1870. It took 130 years to be built. During the construction of the road, sometimes the work stopped for as much as twenty years. It's a road that was more than a century in the making, and when you see it you can immediately understand why. Acording to locals the authorities refused to build a road because of huge expenses according to hard topography. It trundles along a ridge high above the Euphrates River, and, in the course of its progress, passes through a phenomenal 4,722 meters of separate tunnels, each one of them laboriously hacked out of the mountainside.
This stone path was opened on 2nd August 2002. It’s less than 2 meters wide and features a few tunnels of various sizes. The road is much more dangerous than the famous Guoliang Tunnel, in China. There are some narrow sections -scarcely wide enough for two cars- where if two vehicles have to pass each other, one might have to reverse for some kilometers of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass. It shouldn’t be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse. The road challenges even the most seasoned drivers, perfect for those looking for an adventure on 2/4 wheels. This is a thrilling ride, but not one for the novice. The road and the tunnels pass through the canyon, a rocky gorge so deep that the sun barely penetrates its bottom, with the river sauntering through it a great deal more calmly than it has any right to. The road was built by locals with their own hands creating a scenic 8 km stone road with 22 tunnels and "windows". Impassable for bigger vehicles: 170cm width and 220cm height limited.
This road tests the skill, and courage, of any driver. It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of landslides. One mistake and it's a free fall to your death. The rough road runs along the Karanlık (dark) Kanyon and the Eufrates river. The canyon has up to 600m of depth, making it extremely popular for base jumping and thrill-seekers. This marvel of human engineering is a humbling experience. It is not a main road so there isn’t a constant flow of traffic. Due to the general surface of the road, in wet conditions the dirt can soon turn to mud. Slippery road surfaces quickly make the road inaccessible. Never try the drive in winter. The road is heavily used even by buses. Bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails, the road is open to all motorized vehicles. Karanlık Kanyon is said to be the second-biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. At the first bridge there is a memorial with a long list of the people killed while making the road and bridge.
Pic: Abdüllatif ERKAYA