Chiang Mai Zoo

Probably Thailand's best

What we say: 3 stars

We’ve covered the excellent Chiang Mai Aquarium and Nakorn Ping Aviary but haven’t yet given you an overall rundown on the city’s famous zoo; so, it’s about time! Chiang Mai Zoo is situated at the foot of Doi Suthep, just behind Chiang Mai University, and covers a large area of secondary forest, foothills and stream valleys backing on to the national park itself. The natural forest setting certainly helps to elevate the zoo above regular city zoos such as Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo or Regent’s Park but yes, it is a zoo and not a safari park. (We are not including the notoriously badly run Chiang Mai “night safari”.)

Going to the zoo, zoo.....

Going to the zoo, zoo ...

As zoos go, this is a pretty good one and it’s definitely the best the kingdom has to offer. Most animals appear well looked after in spacious cages or fenced off areas and though some enclosures, such as that for the monkeys, still leave a lot to be desired, the zoo is always upgrading and improving its facilities.

Not many zoos where the animals have their own restrooms!

Not many zoos where the animals have their own restrooms!

Other than the aviary and aquarium a wide cross section of native fauna live at the zoo: elephants, tigers, crocodiles, bears and gibbons for starters, plus imported species such as koalas, giraffes, zebras and penguins.

Overdosed on eucalyptus leaves

Overdosed on eucalyptus leaves.

The zoo’s star animals are undoubtedly the pandas, which are on a 10-year loan from China, and for which you have to pay extra to see. That’s partly because they have to live in an air-con enclosure, which rumour has it even has occasional artificial snowstorms… which brings us on to the “snow dome”, another popular attraction for Thais who’ve never seen snow before, and which also charges a separate entrance fee. The snow dome, of moderate interest to Westerners, is a kind of overgrown deep-freeze with a toboggan slope and igloo among its attractions.

Note these are models and not real

Note these are models and not real.

Other non-animal viewing attractions in the zoo include go-carting, elephant rides, inflated plastic balls on the lake, a trained bird show and an “adventure railway” ride. The latter is so kitsch it’s good, and involves a brief ride around a deer and goat enclosure with added plastic dinosaurs that move their heads when you pass and a giant King Kong that roars and flashes his red eyes. Even odder are the model Akha and Mabri exhibits.

Not real either but it's eyes do light up when you go past

Not real either but its eyes do light up when you go past.

The zoo is large and you’ve got three options for getting around: foot, monorail or bus. Most of the main sites can be included in a walking itinerary but be warned: it’s a fair old walk and there are plenty of hills. Much of it is however in the shade and cafes and snack bars are liberally sprinkled around the site. Allow two to three hours to do a loop around the central area on foot.

You are here

You are here.

The monorail (stations marked on above map) does afford good views but will set you back 100 baht. We found it somewhat rickety and weren’t completely at ease on it though maybe we’re just particularly nervous. The buses can be slightly nerve-racking too, as they hurtle up and down steep hills and speed round corners, but at least they are on the ground and they only cost 20 baht. You need to buy a single ticket at the main entrance train or bus stop, and it allows you to get on and off as many times as you like around the course.

Kind of overgrown golf buggies

Kind of overgrown golf buggies.

This site has plenty more details. To get to the zoo by public transport, a 20 baht red songthaew ride will do it or you should be able to get a tuk tuk for 120 baht or so from downtown.

Chiang Mai Zoo
Top end of Huay Kaew Rd, just after the arboretum and immediately before the road starts to climb up Suthep (see map)
Open daily 8:00 to 17:00
www.chiangmaizoo.peam.biz

Admission fee to zoo: adults 100 baht, children 50 baht (unclear what age they consider children to be)
Extra for pandas: adults 100 baht and children 50 baht
Extra for snow dome: 150 baht
(The disgraceful two-tier pricing system is in place: be warned.)

More details
On road to Doi Suthep
http://www.chiangmaizoo.peam.biz
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-17:00
How to get there: The zoo is located at the top end of Huay Kaew Rd, just after the arboretum and immediately before the road starts to climb up Suthep. To get to the zoo by public transport, a 20 baht red songthaew ride will do it or you should be able to get a tuk tuk for around 120 baht from downtown Chiang Mai.
Last updated: 24th September, 2013

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
Agoda logo
best price guarantee


Photo gallery

Photo for

Jump to a destination

Chiang Mai Zoo map


Chiang Mai Zoo
On road to Doi Suthep
Open in Apple/Google Maps

Sights in Chiang Mai