Frangokastello (the castle of the Franks) is a small seaside village located on the south coast of Crete, Greece, about 12 km. east of Chora Sfakion and within the prefecture of Chania. The castle was built by the Venetians in 1371-74 as a garrison to impose order on the rebellious Sfakia region, to deter pirates, and to protect Venetian nobles and their properties.
Frangokastello is one of the most famous beaches of Crete, famous for the local Venetian castle on the beautiful beach and the legendary ghosts of Drosoulites. It is located 13km east of Hora Sfakion, 80km southeast of Chania, in a small valley south of the White Mountains in Crete, Greece.
The extensive, sheltered and gently shelving sandy beach beach of Frangokastelo is truly magnificent, with sand and shallow turquoise waters, ideal for children. It is poorly organized and is quite busy in Summer (July, August). Please note that often irritating winds coming from South, transporting the sand with strength, which is so pleasant.
Fragokastello provides many rooms to stay, restaurants, cafes and shops, but the nearest ATM and hospital is located in Sfakia.
West of the main beach you will find the long beach Vatalos, which is sandy and has pebbles and rocks in parts, making it ideal for snorkelling. Walking 300m east from the main beach for 10 minutes, you will find the magnificent beach of Orthi Ammos, famous for the large sand dunes.
Tourist accommodation is scattered over the flat plain around the castle, but the area's relative remoteness has discouraged major development.
It is famous for its Venetian castle of the same name, which is preserved in very good condition, its beautiful beaches and the Drosoulites, the ghosts which appear at Frangokastello at dawn each May.
This phenomenon is internationally known as mirage. Considered as a kind of a reflection, it has also been observed in other parts of the world with extensive bare soil areas which become overheated by the sun. Local people claim that these forms are the shadows of thewarriors who died there in 1828, at the same period, and they were named Drosoulites because they appear with the morning dew (in Greek: δροσιά- drosia).
Many monuments were built in the area through the centuries, but very few survive today. Most were destroyed in the wars and risings in the area, and the stones from their ruins used to build the castle.
Frangokastello lies in a surprisingly small plain in the shadow of the eastern range of the White Mountains, with the gorge and mountain of Kallikratis and Imbros.
A unique landscape and one of the many surprises the natural environment of lovely Crete has to offer.
How to get there
To get here by car from Chania you will need to take the National Road connecting Chania and Heraklion. Take the exit to Vrysses and drive in the road to Chora Sfakion (Sfakia). You will cross the plateau of the Plateau and then drive in the impressive gorge of Imbros, which leads to the south coast of Sfakia. Then, follow the signs to Fragokastelo. The journey takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. If you drive from Rethymno, follow the road for Plakias and before Plakias continue east to Rodakino, Fragokastelo and Sfakia. The journey takes approximately one hour and is easier, but less impressive than the journey through the Imbros Gorge. Alternatively, you can visit Fragokastelo by bus from Chania.
The castle was built by the Venetians in 1371-74 as a garrison to impose order on the rebellious Sfakia region, to deter pirates, and to protect Venetian nobles and their properties. The Venetians named it the Castle of St. Nikitas after the nearby church. The locals, however, who never saw it in a positive light, contemptuously dubbed it Frangokastello, meaning the Castle of the Franks (i.e. Catholic foreigners), Castelfranco or Franco Castello. The name eventually stuck and was adopted by the Venetians as well. According to local lore, when soldiers and builders arrived on the fertile plain to begin construction of the castle, the local Sfakians, led by six Patsos brothers from the nearby settlement of Patsianos, would destroy every night what the Venetians built during the day. Eventually, the Venetians were forced to bring in additional troops and the Patsos brothers were betrayed, arrested and hanged.
The castle has a simple rectangular shape, with a tower at each corner and the remains of a Venetian coat of arms above the main gate. The buildings within the walls, as well as the battlements, were constructed during the Ottoman Turkish occupation. Inside the castle In 1770, the Cretan rebel Ioannis Vlachos, otherwise known as Daskalogiannis, was captured at Frangokastello by Turkish forces. He was later tortured and executed at Heraklion. On 17 May 1828 a celebrated battle was fought at Frangokastello. Hundreds of Sfakiots and Epirotes led by Hatzimichalis Dalianis, a Greek patriot from Epirus attempting to spread the Greek War of Independence from the mainland to Crete, occupied the castle, but were besieged by the Turks and massacred. However, many of the Turks were then themselves killed by rebel ambushes launched from the local gorges.
According to tradition, around the anniversary of the battle each May, shadows of the armed Cretan and Epirote soldiers who lost their lives there seem to march towards the fortress around dawn. These are called Drosoulites (Greek: Δροσουλίτες), or dew-men, and have been explained as a meteorological phenomenon.
Near the fortress there are the ruins of a monastery and a church of Saint Nicetas (Agios Nikitas), celebrated on September 15th. In days past, great festivities were held on that day, during which ancient customs were revived, with armed dances and athletic events.
At Frangokastello Village you will find many rooms and apartments to stay, along with several tavernas serving some delicious food and fresh fish. The traditional local speciality is tsigariasto(sautéed kid or lamb), boureki (courgette potato bake) and Sfakianes pites (sweet pies with local cheese). There is also a mini-market in Frangokastello, but if you need cash the nearest cashpoint is in Chora Sfakion, where the rural surgery also operates.
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