We report a scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) study of hematite nanorods, prototypical photoanode used in solar water splitting. Hematite nanorods were obtained by hydrothermal growth from aqueous solutions using FeCl3 as precursor. Potentials for onset of water splitting are smaller using this synthesis method, compared to values reported for hematite photoanodes obtained by epitaxial growth. STXM revealed the presence of a hexahydrate iron chloride phase at the surface of the nanorods, which is linked to the low onset potential values. We detail the quantification approach that revealed the specific microstructure of individual hematite nanorods.