The town is at the location where Kizil River joins its tributary Gökırmak just before crossing the last mountain range northwards to the Black Sea.
The name of the town is an altered version of the name of a building from 13th century for overnight stay of caravans, Durak Han, literally "station house" in Turkish. Another possible explanation is that the name originates from "Dura Han" where Dura is the name of a ravine nearby (Dura Deresi). Gökırmak valley runs east west and constitutes a portion of the Silk road, together with a series of similar river valleys running east-west around 100 km inland from Black Sea cost.
Durağan might contain worlds oldest underwater tunnel a few kilometer downstream under the Kızıl River, now the upper part of a dam lake, and a mine from antiquity. The chemicals from the mine might have been shipped to Cyprus for use in cupper production.