The Buenos Aires city zoo features an impressive array of animals, including rare white tigers, indigenous birds and monkeys, giant turtles, llamas, elephants, polar bears, and brown bears. The eclectic and kitschy buildings housing the animals, some designed as exotic temples, are as much of a delight as the inhabitants. A giant lake near the entrance is filled with pink flamingos hanging out near mock Byzantine ruins in the center of the lake. Overlooking the water is a building that resembles a Russian church, which contains monkey cages. Camels are surrounded by Moroccan-style architecture, and the kangaroo holding pens are painted with aboriginal designs. The lions, the kings of the jungle, are in a castle complex with its own moat. The most stunning building, however, is the Elephant House. Built to look like an Indian temple, it is overgrown with vines to make you feel as if you are a jungle explorer who has come across an elephant sanctuary. There are three elephants: Two are African and one is Asian.

The Asian elephant, named Mara, was rescued by the zoo after years of abuse as a circus animal. Having been caged too tightly, she suffers from an emotional illness, standing in one place while she shakes her head back and forth. The other elephants, named Pupy and Kuki, seem to take care of her, and try to prod her along at feeding time and massage their heads against her. It is sad and yet interesting to watch the social behavior of these magnificent creatures. I recommend making time to see them.

Don't miss the polar bears, whose habitat comes with an underwater viewing area. All the caretakers throughout the zoo are great with kids, but here especially they take the time to teach kids about the bears, though sometimes in Spanish only. They also feed the bears, and kids can watch them retrieve food from the water. In the back of the zoo is an enclosed jungle habitat full of various plant species, which even has a waterfall with a rope bridge that a caretaker will lead you through. Giant bugs are also in display cases here. It's hot and steamy inside, just like a real jungle, and the interior is a labyrinth surrounded by plants, so keep an eye on kids as they can easily get lost.


Peacocks and some of the small animals are allowed to roam free, and feeding them is allowed, with special food for sale at kiosks. Animals on the loose will flock to your kids, and many cages have feeding chutes where the animals line up. Boats can also be rented on the zoo's artificial lake. The zoo is a must for anyone, but especially families with kids. I recommend at least half a day to explore and a full day if you have kids.