Dip in a Top Spa for FREE?

Written by  Kat Mackintosh

Imagine it now: you’re stepping into a cloud of steam as you sink into a pool of warm bubbling water. Ahhhh Can you feel it yet? A spa holiday is many people’s idea of the ultimate way to unwind, but at the moment the price tag is so heart-rate accelerating it negates any health giving properties a spa or retreat break would have. But when I was doing the research for our Top Spas list I came across some free or almost free alternatives…

New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach was the catalyst for my free jacuzzi quest. I’d never heard of it before but for a few hours on either side of the tide you can dig yourself a hole in the sand and it will fill with hot bubbly water = Free Spa! And it even has an ocean view. Inspired, I began to search for more natural spas…

Firstly I realised that I’ve actually been to a few myself: Poring Hot Springs, steams out of Borneo’s lush jungle, orchids craning their little necks over the warmth and locals and visitors pile into the concrete secured pools in their swimming trunks, while in Beppu, Japan, a lot of the locals use the onsen – Japanese baths - fed by underground mineral springs as the rest of us use the baths and showers in our houses.Beppu is onsen rich so if you want to be pampered, prodded and handed fresh towels you haven’t had to wash your self you can pay for luxury, but the municipal baths are very cheap – and cheerful.

The Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik is one of the world’s most famous natural hot springs. It’s also very beautiful – the health enhancing silica mud is almost white which makes the water bright tropical island blue. There’s a resort alongside if you want to go upmarket but they’re just going to roll you in the same mud and dip you in the same water so you may as well D.I.Y. So that’s a free mud bath and wrap as well as a spa then.

With the idea of those mad, brave Scandinavians popping from their hot spas into the snow in mind I looked to the top of the map and discovered Chena Hot Springs, where Alaskans do the same thing to get their blood thumping – out in the snow and freezing air then into the hot water - makes my toes hurt just thinking about it.

My free spa discoveries on the Indian subcontinent benefit not from additional free treatment or blood circulation remedy potential, but from the kind of beautiful settings that usually come with a high price tag: the Kesarval Springs, are fringed by lush tropical palms at the bottom of a gorge – like a secret treasure pool, and the Mottant Springs are a fresh water oasis of falls and pools just back from the coast on cashew tree clad hills.

Scenery comes as a free bonus in other countries as well. The Papallacta Hot Springs in the cloud forests of Ecuador have surrounds you couldn’t even pay for, and pools of naturally bubbling and heated water in temperatures ranging from 60 degrees Celsius to body temperature. Thermopolis on the Little Bighorn River is always open to the public and springs out of spectacular country by the Wind River Canyon.

Claudius Therme, Druskininkai and Bath Spa are all natural springs which have been built on top of – seems a bit cheeky to make money from this natural resource but people have been doing it for centuries. Claudius Therme is still priced very reasonably and guests now have access to bubble mats, hydrotherapy and massage as well as the two thermal pools. The Soviets have holidayed round Druskininkai in Lithuania, taking advantage of the mineral springs there, since the 19th Century, and the Romans are famous for building on the springs at Bath, but they were first built on by the Celts about 800 years BC.

But of all the free natural spas I discovered my favourite was one at Jigokudani in Japan which even monkeys can afford. It was originally built for humans but the monkeys took over – and from the photos they clearly enjoy a nice relaxing warm bubble and soak for free too.

World's Top Hot Springs and Free Spas

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