Mona Lisa of Galilee

Visit the ancient city of Zippori, an incredible archeological site with great importance in Judaism and Christianity, and numerous impressive sights to see, including the world-renowned “Mona Lisa of Galilee”.
Mona lisa of galilee

Zippori: the old capital of the Galilee

Although it might be an underrated destination in Israel, Zippori, one of the most important cities in the history of Israel, features a multitude of great experiences. During you visit here, you will find all the ingredients for a quality vacation: history and antiquities, the spectacular mosaic of Mona Lisa of Galilee, exciting attractions, a picturesque landscape, wildlife, good restaurants and quality accommodations.

Zippori, the old capital of the Galilee region, located near Nazareth, was a historical city of great importance, and a site surrounded by great views, rivers, and hiking options. While you can find various things to do in this hidden gem, above all, the main drawing point of Zippori is the Mona Lisa of Galilee, an incredible mosaic that was discovered in the ancient city. Here’s everything you need to know about traveling in Zippori.

The Story of Zippori and Mona Lisa of Galilee

About 2000 years ago, when the Romans ruled almost the entirety of Asia, Zippori was the central city in the Galilee. It combined two opposing factors: on the one hand, about 20,000 Jews lived there, and on the other hand, it was a completely Western city, with all of the well-known symbols of the Roman Empire. Among other things, the ancient city of Zippori featured a theater, a cardo, bathhouses, one of the largest waterworks discovered in the country, and also plenty of impressive houses. At the time, the beautiful Zippori was also known as the “city of mosaics”, with the most impressive one being, of course, the Mona Lisa of Galilee mosaic.

During the Great Revolt of 66-73, the Jewish residents of Zippori decided to stand by and stay loyal to the Romans. This decision, while highly controversial among the Jewish population, had practically saved the city from destruction. Unlike the city of Jerusalem, or the fort of Masada, in which the Jewish population disappeared completely, the city of Zippori continued to flourish.

In this time, from 73-351, Zippori served as the center of the Jewish religion, and one of the most important cities in the land of Israel. At the time, between 188-218, the final form of the Mishna, the most important book in Judaism after the bible, was written here, by Judah ha-Nasi, who spent 17 years of his life in Zippori.

In the middle of the 4th century, two major events have led to the destruction of the city. At first, the Jewish revolt against Constantius Gallus in 351, has led to the expulsion of the Jewish people of Zippori by the Romans. Then, in 363, a major earthquake has destroyed most of the city. Since then, Zippori has been practically empty, until 1949, when the modern small town of Zippori was established by the state of Israel.

Mona lisa of galilee

Zippori in Christianity

According to Christian tradition, Zippori, known as Sepphoris, was home to the parents of Mary, Saints Anne, and Joachim. Due to this belief, as many as 18 churches were built in Zippori over the years, and during the Byzantine period, it got the status of a Diocese.

Best sites to visit in Zippori National Park

House of Dionysus and Mona Lisa of Galilee

One of the most impressive places in the bird’s eye site is the House of Dionysus, a large villa whose name comes from the mosaic floor found in the building’s central lounge, which depicts the worship and life of the Greek wine god Dionysus. This house was built at the beginning of the 3rd century, and the researchers hypothesize that the building was probably destroyed by the earthquake of 363. In one of the parts of the mosaic, you can see the magnificent figure of a woman who received the name “the Mona Lisa of Galilee”, as the mosaic here looks incredibly similar to the masterpiece made by Leonardo De Vinci.

In addition to the Mona Lisa of Galilee, you can see several other impressive mosaics in the historical house, which is located inside the Zippori National Park.

Zodiac with 4 seasons at house of dionysus

Church of St Anna

A church from the 2nd century that was built in the place where, according to Christian tradition, Anna and Joachim, the grandmother and grandfather of Jesus, have lived.

From here, it is also highly recommended to go up to the lookout which is a few minutes’ walk above the church. Today the Santa Ana boarding school, a boarding school for at-risk youth, is located here, and the view from here is particularly spectacular, with a great look at the entire Lower Galilee.

Other sites in Zippori National Park

Zippori National Park is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Israel and a great visit for history lovers who wish to learn more about the history of this ancient city. During your visit here, in addition to the Mona Lisa of Galilee, you can see the remains of an ancient synagogue, with a magnificent mosaic with Jewish motifs, at the entrance to the park, as well as an ancient underground water system, which is one of the biggest of its kind.

In addition, we would highly recommend you to visit the restored ruins of the Roman theater, carved into the rock, from which you can see a spectacular view of the Upper Galilee Mountains.

Other attractions near the old city of Zippori

Zippori Springs

Zippori Springs are two clear springs, located right by the Zippori National park, which are part of the three springs that feed the Zippori River.

The springs are divided into 2 recreation places adjacent to each other. The first is a very shallow and clear pool, rich in pebbles and rocks. On the northern side of the pool, you can see archaeological remains of a wall made of stone – this is a remnant from the Roman period. In this pool, because it is very low, you can only wade your feet and not bathe with your whole body, but it is still a great place to relax in and have a picnic.

The second point, located just near the shallow pool, is a deeper pool, which is the great spring of a bird’s eye. The size of the pool is 5 meters by 5 meters and it has a square structure, so it is very comfortable for bathing.

Modern Zippori village

The modern village of Zippori is one of the most charming and peaceful villages in the Galilee. Here, you can find several different attractions, like horse-riding and jeep tours in the stunning landscape of the Lower Galilee. In addition, the great Zippori Winery and Jonnah Winery are two great sites to visit for those who are interested to learn more about the wine industry of the Galilee.

Tzipori national park

Those great attractions, along with a nice culinary scene, great views, and peaceful accommodation options, all make the modern Zippori village a great place to stop by for visitors who come to see the Mona Lisa of Galilee.







Opening hours

Summer – every day except Friday: 8:00-17:00. Fridays and holidays: 8:00-16:00.

Winter – every day except Friday: 8:00-16:00. Fridays and holidays: 8:00-15:00.

Parking and transportation

There is a free parking lot inside the national park.

Accessibility arrangements

  • All sites in Zippori National Park, including the Mona Lisa of Galilee, are wheelchair-accessible.

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