East of Turkey and landlocked, the former Soviet state of Armenia (independent since 1991) was one of the earliest Christian civilisations; its first churches being founded in the 4th century. Located on the Silk Route between Europe and Asia, Armenia a rich and colourful history, with many different cultures having exerted their influences over the centuries. Access to Armenia is through the capital city of Yerevan, which has a surprisingly 'Mediterranean' feel, with its thriving markets, laid-back cafe culture and welcoming people. From the high points of the city, the snow-capped peak of Mount Ararat (across the border in Turkey) is clearly seen. One of the undoubted geographical highlights of the country is the vast Lake Sevan, around the shores of which there are numerous ancient monasteries, churches and stone-built fortresses. Armenia also has mountains, including the Geghama Range, where easy hiking through flower-spangled meadows can take in summits such as Mount Azhdahak (3597m/11,801ft). The country's highest peak, the isolated volcano Mount Aragats (4090m/13,418ft) holds snow throughout the year.