Sitting atop a hill just a few miles north of Nazareth in lower Galilee is the ancient city of Zippori (also known as Tzipori or Sepphoris). Like so many other sites in Israel, Zippori has a long and complex history (archeologists have found evidence dating back 3,000 years), important to Jews as well as the Romans. And if you like mosaics, Zippori will knock you off your feet!
The city may get its name from the Hebrew word "tsipor" (bird) because the beautiful bird's eye view from the top of the hill.
It's thought that Mary was born in Zippori. And only a 50-minute walk from Nazareth, it would have provided Joseph many years of construction work.
Because the residents of Zippori didn't take part in the Great Revolt against the Romans between 67 and 73 CE, the city was spared from destruction. Jews and Romans coexisted peacefully giving Zippori the nickname "The City of Peace" (see also our post on Masada).
Walking through the site, you almost feel transported back through history. Imagine riding in the carts that made these indentations in this ancient limestone boulevard, also known as the Cardo.
Our guide told us that these markings in the stone paths were part of a popular game that was played here.
The Nile Festival House
The house gets its name from the mosaics depicting scenes from the Nile River. The house dates from the 5th century CE and the mosaics here were stunning.
The mosaic below depicts a meter measuring the flooding of the Nile.
The Greek inscription held by the centaur says "Helpful God".
There were many hunting and nature scenes.
And these beautiful geometric designs.
The undulation of the floor below makes it look like a carpet.
The Dionysus House
This structure was built at the beginning of the third century CE and was destroyed by an earthquake in 363, but the mosaics that have been restored are beautiful. The location of the Dionysus House at the top of the hill indicates that the owner had considerable wealth.
The woman is known as the Mona Lisa of Galilee.
The Orpheus House
Orpheus was a musician in Roman mythology famous for charming anyone who would listen to him. The two mosaics below depicting a banquet have been restored from this house.
The synagogue in Zippori dates to the fifth century CE and is famous for its beautiful Zodiac mosaic.
Detail from the zodiac mosaic.
More from the synagogue.
Zippori is a treasure which shouldn't be missed if you are in northern Israel.
➜ Top Tips
As mentioned above, Zippori National Park is about 8 miles north of Nazareth. We stayed in Migdal on the banks of the See of Galilee, about 28 miles northeast of Zippori. It was an easy 30-minute drive from our hotel.
The entry fee as of the fall 2022 was 28 ILS or just under $8.00 for an adult.
Plan to spend at least two hours there. The park is large and there is much to see!
Wear a hat and comfortable shoes as you'll be walking over uneven limestone and climbing a bit.
Do a little research about it before you go to make it a richer experience.