(click to hear "Going To The Zoo" song by Raffi)We visited the Zoo in Montevideo in June (and again last weekend) and the Zoo in Piriápolis in August. Both are great options but I highly advise that you visit now that we are in the warmer months!
In Montevideo, the Zoo Villa Dolores has a great location, close to the heart of the city. Many of the animals were in hiding when we first visited on a cold Sunday morning- but were out enjoying the sun on our second visit. The displays and animal enclosures were actually quite nice compared to what I remember in the USA as a kid. Zoo Villa Dolores has all the usual suspects: elephant, hippo, lion, giraffe, zebra, along with tons of monkeys, birds (including flamingo and peacock), goats and sheep. There was a separate reptile/spider building, a kid's play area and plenty of other diversions in the park. We had a lot of fun with the standing scenes that you put your head through... whatever they are called...
Location: Avenida Gral. Rivera 3245
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 AM- 7 PM
Cost: $20 pesos. Free for under 12 and over 70.
Free for everyone on Wednesdays.
The Zoo in Piriápolis is in a different league completely. It is relatively new and I have heard that it is partially a zoo and partially a local fauna breeding center. It's built into the hillside of Pan de Azúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), a 400 meter high granite hill with a 35 meter high cross on top that you can climb up into the arms (after another 100 steps). All of the animals at this zoo are housed in "natural" settings and it is a fun maze to wind though to find the animal enclosures among the trees and flora.
This zoo was free to enter and had some beautiful and unusual animals, mostly on the small side and many native to this region of South America. The largest of the animals was a single tiger who was maybe a bit too vocal, and in fact, a little scary. There was also a reptile/spider building here and a true variety of settings as you walked from lake/marshland to heavy tree cover, to prairie setting. It was beautiful. My favorite, the capybara. There is a restaurant nearby and a huge play area and park for picnics. Pack a lunch, as our wonderful friends did for us, and take a hike up the Sugar Loaf "mountain" when you're done. The path leads up from the zoo.
Location: 6 km north of Piriápolis on Route 37, at the foothill of Pan de Azúcar