One of the western highland’s most underrated gems, hilly Chebera-Churchura extends across 1,215km2 of well-watered jungle and savanna.

This is the most reliable place in Ethiopia to see elephants, which can be tracked on foot through the swampy Maka Forest with the help of experienced scouts.

Bushpig and giant forest hog are also regularly observed in the forest, while other more secretive wildlife includes buffalo, lion, leopard and various antelope.

Walking trails lead to four lily-covered crater lakes with abundant hippos, while a lovely campsite on the forested Shoshuma River supports white-cheeked turaco, silvery-cheeked hornbill, half-collared kingfisher, doubletoothed barbet and plenty of monkeys. Other attractions include a number of hot springs, and the twin waterfalls on the Bardo River.

Extending over almost 7,000 square kilometres to the southeast of Harar, Babile Elephant Sanctuary is a vast and spectacular reserve comprising wide gorges flanked by open plains, rocky out-crops, meandering river beds and, in the south and the east, a drier almost-desert like landscape. Babile is home to Africa’s most north-easterly population of elephants, which some authorities assign to a unique race Loxodonta africana orleansi, endemic to the Horn of Africa. The sanctuary also provides refuge to thin populations of the localised black-maned Abyssinian lion and greyhound-like cheetah, along with various antelope (including greater and lesser kudu), the hamadryas baboon, and a spectacular selection of dry-country birds, including the endemic Salvadori’s serin. An estimated 200 elephants inhabit Babile, moving seasonally between the Erer and Gobelle river valleys, but also sometimes venturing outside the sanctuary to the western ridge of the Gobelle Valley. The best time of year to visit is the late rainy season (June to September) when the elephants usually congregate in the Upper Erer Valley about 40km from Harar.

The closest UNESCO World Heritage Site to Addis Ababa, the mysterious Tiya Stele Field, located 88km south of Addis Ababa, comprises 36 megaliths erected to mark mass graves of young males and females, possibly soldiers, who were laid to rest in a foetal position.

Little is known about the constructors of these monuments, or the meaning behind the stylized swords, unadorned circles, leaf-like symbols and other features engraved upon them, but they are the remains of an ancient Ethiopian culture.

Oddly, the stele are roughly contemporaneous with nearby Adadi Maryam (68km south of Addis Ababa), Ethiopia’s southernmost functional rock-hewn church, a lovely subterranean semi-monolith attributed by legend to King Lalibela.