The Barösund region of Inkoo on the Finnish south coast is often overlooked by travellers who flock instead to the well-advertised urban centre of Helsinki, and to the Arctic promise of Lapland. But this magnificent archipelago is a hidden gem of ancient coastlines, untouched pine forests and local stories dating back to the Viking Age. And there’s something else hidden amongst the trees: an extraordinary new getaway that has raised the bar for luxury forest hotels.

Despite being just an hour’s drive from Helsinki airport, The Barö is nestled in something of a Finnish Arcadia. On the forested shoreline of Hycklesund Bay, where white-tailed eagles surf the breeze, the hotel’s glass-fronted cabins seem to melt into the surrounding wilderness. The 18 luxury pinewood huts, raised on stilts and connected by floating boardwalks, range from magnificent two-room suites, complete with a private sauna and jacuzzi, to intimate double-lodgings – each characterised by its panoramic window onto sea, valley or woodland. The interiors are darkly elegant: rich tones of charcoal and umber draw the arresting forest light and views into the cabin, creating an almost holy feeling of immersion.

But the hotel’s harmony with nature is more than just aesthetic: in December, The Barö was awarded the Green Key Certificate for excellence in environmental responsibility. “We built The Barö in four and a half months, and we barely touched the forest. You can tell from the wildlife. During longer building projects, deer will alter their routes – but all the local fauna is still here. Just last week, we had some guests who opened the curtains on the panoramic window, and a herd of nine deer was walking past the terrace,” say the luxury escape’s owners and founders, Netta and Jussi Paavoseppä.

The Barö: The new archipelago hotel raising the bar for sustainable luxury escapes

Photo: Saas Instruments

Tailored relaxation and adventure

Combining nature and indulgence, The Barö offers its guests a selection of highly personalised experiences. “We have our own massage therapists. Then, of course, when you’re in Finland, you have to visit the sauna!” says Jussi. The hotel’s shared wooden sauna fronts onto the bay, while The Bärosund suite boasts its own private sauna. “We have 180,000 islands in this region, and no tides or streams, so the waters are completely calm. In the winter when the sea freezes over, the view from the sauna is spectacular,” he adds.

Hycklesund Bay is also a magical place to go kayaking, or for a private boat tour with the local family-run water-taxi service. All activities start at the hotel’s beach or harbour, and the more adventurous include biking to historical island-villages, ice-swimming, helicopter tours, hunting and fishing. Away from the shoreline, the indigenous pine forests that ensconce The Barö offer a more primal kind of therapy. “One of the greatest experiences here is to enjoy the healing power of the quiet woodland. For forest hikes, we offer a tailor-made picnic basket, filled with local delicacies. Or, during the autumn, you can hunt for wild berries and eat them as you walk. In mushroom season, we’ll provide you with baskets, tools and maps for guided or independent mushroom-foraging,” explains Jussi.

Flavour and flair at The Berg

Meanwhile, The Barö’s own restaurant, The Berg, extends the philosophy of hyperlocal cuisine to an even higher standard. With menus themed around the sea and the forest, guests can enjoy the seasonal harvest in a magical four to seven-course menu. In January, the Chef’s Table event series was launched. For this, diners seated around The Berg’s stunning open kitchen are presented with an exclusive menu prepared by guest chefs.

“When we host a new chef, they bring their own flair and flavours to the table. It’s an exciting chance for our own chefs to learn, and for our guests to try delicacies from further afield,” says Jussi. April will see the kitchen helmed by Wilma Wilms from restaurant atNordhem in Gothenburg, while Finland’s Young Chef of the Year, who also placed second in Jounes Chef’s Rôtesseurs 2022, Otto Hietamies, will visit The Berg in May. “Then there’s the Wine Producers’ dinner series, with guest vignerons and sommeliers. In January, we welcomed visitors from the importer Gustave Lorenz, and in March, Antinori will shape the menu around a selection of wines,” he adds.

Though The Barö is surrounded by nature, it’s not swallowed by it. In fact, it strikes a balance that’s rarely achieved in the world of luxury eco-tourism. Thanks to its sophisticated hermitage-style architecture, the grandeur of the wild is felt in every moment, but an exquisite standard of luxury is equally ever-present. Those seduced by The Barö’s charms will have more to discover in June, when Netta and Jussi open a new hotel called The Torby, just 20 minutes away. “That’s the next project,” says Netta, with a cheeky smile.

The Barö: The new archipelago hotel raising the bar for sustainable luxury escapes

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