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Gagra, 94 km northwest of Sokhumi along the M27, is a charming coastal resort situated below thick forests running up the foothills of the Gagra Mountains. Some peaks tower as high as 2,750 meters. It is the warmest spot on the coast, with the sea ranging in temperature from 16°-23° С (61°-73° F) from May until November. Roses flourish in January and February. In the mountains, however, the alpine meadows are covered with snow аor eight months of the year.

Gagra has an ancient history. In the first century AD, the Romans built a fortress, Nitica, to protect the territory from pirates. In the fourth and fifth centuries the Abaata Fortress was built by the local Abazghi tribe. The ruins can be visited in the center of town on Gagarina Square. Between the tenth and the 13th centuries, Gagra served as a transit point аor trade between Kiev, Russia, and the rest of Georgia. In the 14th century the town was a Genoese colony. The first reference to the name Gagra on a map is on the one made by Pietro Visconti in 1308, where the town appears as Kakara. In the 16th century Gagra, along with all the towns and villages along the Black Sea Coast, fell into the hands oа the Turks, who continued to rule on and off for more than 300 years.

In 1830, the region was taken by the Russians. To defend against raids by northern Caucasian tribes, they built a stone watchtower in 1841 in the Zhoekvara Gorge. Called the Marlinsky Tower, it is in the northeast part of town on Oktabraskaya Street. In the 1890s, the Russians constructed the Novorossiyk-Batumi Highway intersecting Gagra, allowing for its development. In 1901, Prince Alexander Oldenburgsky, who was married to a niece of Tsar Nicholas II, began to develop the town as a resort, hoping to turn it into a Caucasian Nice. (Although there's no topless bathing and an absence of luxury boutiques, the perch of some of the houses in the hills overlooking the sea might remind you of the Cote d'Azur.) The palace the prince built for himself in 1907 is now the Chaika (Seagull) Holiday hotel, which is on fourth of March Street.

While Oldenburgsky's plans for a resort were not originally a great success because of the malaria that flourished in the region, Gagra had been before the war one of the most popular vacation spots on the coast for Georgians. The town had over 30 sanatoria, and many private homes offered an informal bed-and-breakfast arrangement. A lovely seaside park stretches for three km and covers 14 hectares. Many subtropical plants and trees grow in the park and shade the avenues throughout the town. The palms and eucalyptus are especially wonderful, a first-rate anomaly to confound preconceived notions about places that had once been a part of the USSR being one large frozen taiga.

A number of sites of architectural interest merit a visit: Marlinsky Tower (1841) is in the northeast part of town on Oktabraskaya Street; Gagra Church (sixth century) is on Gagarina Square in the center of town; the Abaata Fortress (fourth to fifth centuries) is also on Gagarina Square in the center of town.