Chiang Mai Zoo is located 2km north of the old walled city, near the University, on the Huay Kaew Road. It is on the way to Doi Suthep, and visitors often combine a visit to the zoo with a visit to Doi Suthep Temple.
The zoo covers a large area. There is a bus that goes around the zoo that you can hop on and off as you like. If you walk around the zoo it will take about 2 hours to visit. The route includes some steep concrete roads.
There is also an 'on and off' monorail service. However, it seems to be broken down for at least 50% of the year. Good idea, but poorly executed. The elevation does not give good views - the project was badly thought out. In truth the monorail is a waste of time, and its appeal is only found in the fact that it is a novelty.
The animals in Chiang Mai Zoo seem well looked after. Most of the enclosures are humane in the sense that the animals have enough room and suitable habitat recreation. As I write the zoo is in the process of renovating the smaller concrete pit style enclosures. This is good news as at present the bears and some of the large rodents could be kept in better enclosures. But to give credit where credit is due the zoo is constructing new accommodation to deal with this problem.
The main animal attractions are the pandas, with a separate enclosure you must pay extra to visit, and the rare white tigers. Both are near the main entrance. The gibbon enclosure is good, with a large tree house structure to allow them to perform aerial acrobatics.
If you are interested in the animals of Thailand search around a bit at the back of the zoo. You will find some of the peculiar South East Asian animals that you never see in Western zoos. Some of these animals are lurking in the Jungle in major tourist destinations like Koh Phangan. Some of the animals I have seen staying at Sunrise Villa, such as the Palm Civet and the slow Loris, I was only able to identify them thanks to my visit to Chiang Mai Zoo.
Some of the attractions at the zoo, like Ice World may appeal less to European visitors.
Snacks are available, and there is a bar selling alcohol and a small range of more substantial dishes near the lake.
The entire zoo is non-smoking.