The Western Ethiopia is undisturbed and seldom visited, and while its towns are nothing special, it’s one of the most beautiful regions in Ethiopia. Rainforests and coffee plantations share the landscape with savannah grasslands, wildlife-rich swamps and high plateaus carpeted in fields of tef (an indigenous grass cultivated as a cereal, the base for making injera).
Addis Alem St Maryam Church
St Maryam Church is Addis Alem's most interesting building. It stands out for its lavish decoration: the basilica’s exterior, as well as the maqdas (inner sanctuary), is entirely covered with murals.
Gibe Sheleko National Park
It covers 360 sq km of upland plateau, parts of the Gibe River gorge area and patches of endemic forest. The diverse, but rather elusive, wildlife includes 17 mammal species, such as greater kudu and a few hippos in the river valley. The birdwatching is also good, with over 200 species recorded – including red-winged pytilia and white-winged cliff chat. The park headquarters is signed 178km west of Addis just beyond the town of Welkite.
Gambela Nuer, Misinger And Anuak Tribes
As impressive as the scenery is, it’s the ethnic diversity that's the real attraction: white-robed highlanders flock to churches while, on the South Sudan border, ritually scarred Nuer people stride across the grasslands with their long-horned cattle. The Anuak people of the Gambela region believe that to continue travelling west is to fall off the edge of the world – they are wrong on this score: the world doesn’t end in western Ethiopia, it just feels that way.
In Gambela's north is the Anuak market. Vendors sit in the shade of the trees selling cereals, firewood, large Nile perch and tobacco. To pass the time, many indulge in akowyo (water-pipe) smoking. You can taste the borde (traditional sorghum ‘beer’), served to thirsty marketgoers from metal buckets.