Iceland is super expensive for travelers, but its best-kept secret is free

Summer vacation hack: Here's how traveling off the beaten path saved me...

Iceland is quickly climbing the ranks as one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. But the land of the dazzling northern lights and multicolored mountains is also the land of steep prices.

During my visit in late April, I kept it cheap when I could, but also splurged on occasion, like on a $95 ticket to the iconic Blue Lagoon.

Surprisingly, though, after three days of eating, exploring and relaxing in one of the most expensive countries on earth, my favorite part of the trip turned out to be completely free: Lounging in an off-the-beaten-path natural hot spring.

The view and the soak were completely free

Iceland is known for its hot springs and geothermal pools. Some will cost you, like the Blue Lagoon, but others are completely free, including the one I found.

After a full day touring the country's geysers, waterfalls and national parks, I decided to track down the Hrunalaug hot spring and finish the day trip with a soak.

It's about 65 miles east of the capital city, Reykjavik. If you're driving, you'll stumble upon a parking area fit for two cars. From there, it's a five minute walk to the stone-enclosed pool and a small, unassuming cabin that serves as a changing facility.

Sure, it's not the Blue Lagoon — there's no towel rental or shower, and you certainly won't be offered a bathrobe and slippers. But the all-natural, no-frills character of the place is what makes it special.

Perhaps the best part is the seclusion. Besides two women who were leaving when I arrived and a couple who showed up shortly after me, I had the spring and the view all to myself. I will note that the landowners have reported that, due to its rise in popularity, Hrunalaug has undergone damage lately. So if you pop by, treat the area carefully.

It doesn't get much better than soaking in a perfectly heated private pool, overlooking a perfectly chiseled landscape … for free.

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