On the south coast of Crete, on a magnificent white sandy beach, stands one of the most beautiful Venetian fortresses, Fragokastello, built in 1371. It is located approximately 140 km from Iraklion, 60 km from Rethimnon, and 80 Km from Hania.
Today, Fragokastello is a small, but developing, community, with nice beaches covered in sand dunes, and limited, but increasing, tourist facilities.
Fragokastello, together with the neighboring villages of Kapsodasos, Kalikratis and Patsianos, belong to the municipality of Sfakia.
Fragokastello, is an ideal base of operations for visitors who want to explore the south west coast of Crete, or the impressive White Mountains.
From Fragokastello passes the European hiking footpath (E4).
The footpath comes to Fragokastello through the gorge of Imbros
and crosses the gorge of Kalikratis
through Fragokastello and the village of Patsianos.
A long magnificent white sandy beach stretches in front of the castle. The water is crystal clear, shallow and warm.
The sand forms dunes that besides the marvellous sight they offer, they can also be used for games by the sea side.
(also Fragokastelo or Fragocastello GR: Φραγκοκάστελο) takes its name from the castle the Venetians built right on the beach in 1371, to protect themselves from pirates and from the constant revolts of the locals. The Venetians called it Castel Franco.
The fortress consists of a massive rectangular keep reinforced at the corners with square towers. In front of the fortress stretches a marvelous shallow sandy beach . Above the main entrance to the castle there is a sculptured slate with the Lion of Saint Mark and two Venetian feudal coat of arms.The last repairs to the castle where made by the Turks in 1866.
The battle of Frangokastello
The castle carries a blood-drenched history related to the struggle for freedom against the Turks. Related to this history, a strange phenomenon called Drosoulites, takes place in Fragokastello, and according to the legend, is related to the Battle of Frangokastello.
The castle was captured by all sides (Venetians, Turks and Greeks) during the ages, during the struggle of the locals for independence.
In 1828 during the War of Independence against the Turks, the troops of Hatzimihalis Dalianis took refuge in the castle during the Battle of Fragokastello. The leader of the Turks, Mustafabey, besieged the castle for seven days. During the siege Dalianis himself and 350 of his troops died. Locals, however, closed in on the Turkish army from behind and with their help, Mustafabey retreated and allowed to the troops to exit the castle unharmed. Afterwards, he demolished a big part of the castle and started to proceed towards northeast. But the locals, waited for them in the gorges and slaughtered many his army.
The phenomenon of Drosoulites
According to the local legends, every year, on the anniversary of the battle of Fragokastello (May 17th Gregorian, 4-6 June), when the dawn breaks, the visitor sees a long procession of visions.
There are people, dressed in black, with their weapons shining under the morning sun, walkers and riders, marching from the ruined church of Agios Charalambos and advancing towards the fort. The phenomenon is observed when the sea is calm and the atmosphere is moist and it usually last about 10 minutes.
They reach the sea and disappear into it , with the first rays of the sun. They are called Drosoulites (GR: Δροσουλίτες) as they appear with the morning dew (GR: Δρόσος, Δροσιά).
The procession can be well observed from the valley at a distance of 1000 m.
This phenomenon has been well attested over a period of time. Many have tried to explain this in a scientific way, and at one time it was explained as a mirage from the coast of north Africa, but still there is no accepted consensus.
The appearance of the Drosoulites is so real, that is is documented over the ages. In 1890 a transient Turkish army, took the images for rebels and opened fire on them. Even during the last World War, a German patrol opened fire on the visions.