Rhinia is the ancient burial ground for warriors who died on Delos. Mighty pillars, crowned by clouds, guide the entrance to the primitive paradise called Rhinia, the third sister in the Cycladic triangle.
On the one side, the huge rocks are rugged and weather-beaten, their age hidden in the dark stones. On the other side, the surfaces are smooth and shiny, reflecting rays of the sun. Proud as sentries these pillars stand, ancient companions to the sea.
Tinted with deepening shades of blue, green, and purple, the water is an artist's pallet. Near the shore, the color is a subtle blue, becoming a bright blue/green and then a rich, dark, wine-colored purple in its deepest part. Two lovely coves protect the solitary, sandy beaches, named Stena, Lia, Glyfada, and Ambelia.
Rhinia is called "Big Delos" and is four times the size of its sister island. It is the ancient burial ground for warriors who died on Delos and whose bones were then transferred to its land, many, many years ago. One can see grave markers and burial stones on its rocky, hilly terrain. It is a popular belief that the island is "haunted" by the ghosts of the warriors buried there. Uninhabited, the island has no plumbing, electricity, or telephones and by law no one is allowed to live there. Mykonians bring their sheep and goats there to graze and concrete huts are scattered about the island to provide temporary shelter in the event of storms.
Some tourists come to the island during the day for the experience of being almost alone on an uninhabited island, but there are only a few who seek this experience. At times, parties will be held on the island and notices will appear in Mykonos announcing the event; all the available boats will be chartered and people will descend on the island with sleeping bags, party all night, and hope that the winds, (the Meltemi), will permit them to return the next day. But these parties have been discouraged by the officials in Mykonos because of the obvious danger.
Mykonians come to Rhinia to fish and to escape the tourists, and the fisherman who took me to the island told me he and his friends have had magical experiences there. They come as a group in a caique, bringing food and drink. They make a bon fire for cooking and for light, and they eat, drink, play the bazooka, and dance under the brilliant, white moon. When night falls they sleep in the caique and, weather permitting, return to Mykonos the next day.
I was introduced to the elderly fisherman, Gregoris, by friends and he took me to Rhinia on three occasions when he went there to fish. He dropped me off on one of the four beaches, then went elsewhere to his "secret" fishing place. The first day I explored the island, looking for grave markers and other artifacts of burial sites, but on the next two occasions I took a picnic lunch and wine, practiced yoga postures on the warm sand, and swam natural in the crystal clear waters. All three times I was alone on the beach and was enveloped by a sense of peace and a stillness that is almost impossible to describe.
A friend who lives on the island part time and is very familiar with Rhinia went there with a companion in the early evening and described her extraordinary experience for me. "We saw the sunset from high atop the most southern part of the island. If you looked to one side, the moon was out and full, with a still yet blue sky. If you looked the other way, the sun was setting. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. It was a truly magnificent gift from the gods."
It would be almost impossible for the ordinary tourist to go to this island alone at night, and it is most likely forbidden, but the island can be visited during the day. If you plan carefully, are attentive to weather conditions, promise to respect the warriors in their ancient graves, and find either a fisherman or a charter service that will take you there, you will have an experience that is as close as possible to being transforming.
This Guide to Mykonos is written by Aurelia, author of A Lone Red Apple. It's a lovely novel set in Mykonos and Rhinia and makes a delightful read for your trip to Greece!