Essential guide to all things Hanko
Finland’s southernmost town is fast regaining its status as a wellness hotspot.
Situated on a peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the Baltic, Hanko has long been a popular seaside destination during summer months. At the turn of the last century it was renowned as a spa town for the Russian aristocracy. The Spa Park occupied the stretch of pristine shoreline that runs between Neljän Tuulen Tupa (The House of Four Winds) on Pieni Mäntysaari (Little Pine Island) and the Monument of Liberty honouring Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917.
Fashionable guests would travel to Hanko for the sea air and a chance to visit the exclusive resort. The ornate 19th-century wooden villas built along the waterfront are impressive reminders of that bygone era and Hanko’s iconic bathing huts still line the beaches.
In 2017 Hanko saw the opening of the luxurious Regatta Spa. Perched on the smooth rocks above Tehtaanniemi Park, the spa provides an upscale wellness retreat in an exotic Nordic locale and is part of a broader complex that has transformed Hanko’s Eastern Harbour. The Regatta Hotel, designed by celebrated architect Lars Sonck and completed in 1900, was one of the original spa hotels. Recent renovations have preserved the character of the elegant Art Nouveau building and a new block of luxury flats adjacent to the hotel offer unparalleled vistas of the seascape.
The great outdoors
For all its riches, Hanko is a humble jewel at heart and its locals have always sought wellbeing in their contact with nature. Ilse Klockars runs Outdoor Happiness, an eco-tourism business that offers people a chance to experience the natural beauty of Hanko and its environs.
“I think that the longer you spend in nature, the better you feel. It is easy to enjoy nature here: the forest, the sea, and the beaches; a trip through the forest calms you down and increases the feeling of wellness,” says Klockars.
There are a number of charming islands to visit in the archipelago outside Hanko. By far the most popular is Bengtskär, 25 kilometres southwest of Hanko, where you can sleep in the historic 1906 lighthouse, enjoy a homecooked archipelago meal, and relax in the wood-fired sauna.
There is also a museum documenting the fierce 1941 Battle of Bengtskär between Finnish and Soviet troops. Ferries to Bengtskär leave several times a day from Hanko’s Eastern Harbour but are weather dependent.
Due to Hanko’s windswept location, the town is an under-the-radar mecca for cold water surfing. And on a good day, dozens of colourful sails dance above the water on Tulliniemi Beach while kite surfers skim the surface.
Stefan Randstrom grew up in Hanko and was part of the early windsurfing scene there in the 1980s. “Tullis is a classic surf beach with wind and waves and an incredible location that’s hard to beat,” says Randstrom.
Surf Club Hanko’s Matti Suutarinen believes that the area will only become more popular for surfing tourists. A new clubhouse, Oasis Hanko, recently opened to the public and offers surfers a place to chill out and warm up when they come in from the sea.
Text Karen Mackenna
Photos Stefan Randstrom and Visit Finland