It’s important to choose the best ayahuasca retreats for your health and safety. We’ve been to a few around the world – here are some of the best!
Twenty years ago, ayahuasca (sometimes also called yage) was barely known by Westerners. But this powerful plant medicine had been revered by those peoples living in the Amazon for millennia. They knew this brew could do so much: heal the body to help people have spiritual revelations regarding their purpose on earth, know the true nature of the universe, and learn how they could fulfill their true potential.
In short, it can provide a powerful spiritual awakening, and those who take it even report they visit higher spiritual dimensions and make contact with various spiritual or extra-dimensional beings who can act as guides or healers.
Why ayahuasca is not to be taken lightly
But this is no ‘recreational drug’. Serious vomiting or diarrhea can follow ayahuasca ingestion. Such purging is considered by many shamans to be the release of negative energy and emotions built up over the course of one’s life.
The ingestion of ayahuasca can also cause significant, but temporary, emotional and psychological distress. Excessive use can lead to serotonin syndrome, and there have even been deaths after people drank ayahuasca with unscreened heart conditions, interaction with other drugs, caffeine, or nicotine.
For that reason, it’s essential to choose one of the best ayahuasca retreats in the world.
What To Look For In An Ayahuasca Retreat
Before you decide to try ayahuasca, there are a few things you should look for in a retreat.
First of all, you need to find a knowledgeable shaman. Preferably one who comes from a long, traditional lineage. Such shamans – often called ‘curanderos’ – bring many advantages. For example:
- they know how to expertly prepare the ayahuasca brew
- they’ll provide the right dosage to you, depending on your weight, height, gender and experience
- these mystics can even enter your energetic space and ‘bring you back’ from any panic or danger from your experience
- they will sing the icaros – or, the songs that activate the spirit of ayahuasca. Icaros also call in allies, connect with nature, help set intention, give protection, grounding, and healing, and more
Working with a reputable curandero is essential also because many charlatans have arisen to exploit tourists’ interest in ayahuasca. Some have even robbed and raped their clients whilst they were under the influence of ayahuasca.
Personally, I’d also recommend a retreat that works with very small groups. Again, tourist interest in the plant medicine means that many retreats try to pack in as many people as possible to get more money. However, in large groups, little attention is paid to each individual’s experience.
When I took ayahuasca, there were two people holding space for every one client. I found this very supportive, and in one case, it was thoroughly necessary for someone in my group who was suffering severe emotional trauma under the influence of the medicine.
Emotional trauma experienced under ayahuasca is no joke. In Peru, there was even a murder that resulted in someone’s terrible aya visions. And there have been several cases of death. I repeat: as beneficial as it can be, this medicine is not to be taken lightly.
That’s why I’d recommend having access to medical attention wherever you go for your journey. Some retreats, like Etnikas, have doctors and nurses on staff. Others have hospitals nearby.
But leaving the realm of empirical science, I’d also say undergoing ritualistic cleansing before and after your ceremony is essential. It’s believed that ayahuasca opens portals to different dimensions, and you need to be protected from whatever entities may penetrate your energetic space before and after your ceremony.
A good shaman will, of course, know how to do this.
As important as the ceremony itself is how you integrate the experience you have from the medicine. A shaman can help you decode any symbolism you see, whilst ‘sharing groups’ can also help you process your experience. Some retreats even have psychologists on staff. In any case, ensure your retreat helps you understand what just happened to you. You shouldn’t be left in a lurch, trying to figure out what you experienced all on your own.
Ultimately, word of mouth is the best way to go. And that’s why we’re now publishing this list of the best ayahuasca retreats around the world.
I, my staff or people I know well have been to all of these places. I can firmly state I know these retreats will deliver the safest and most potentially life changing experiences possible.
The Best Ayahuasca Retreats Around the World
This is definitely one of the best ayahuasca retreats in the world – and one of the very safest.
After a client passed away (due to mixing ayahuasca with street drugs and medications), this retreat has become super cautious. A doctor, psychologist, translator, nurse, and shaman are all on hand to ensure you are safe and sound both physically and mentally at all times. The doctor and psychologist evaluate each person before the ceremony to ensure they’re mentally and physically fit enough to undergo it. The psychologist offers follow-up visits to make sure you’ve processed your experience thoroughly afterwards.
Uniquely, the retreat offers blessings and cleansing by both a Q’ero paquo (a kind of Andean shaman) and a Shipibo ayahuascero (an Amazonian shaman) to ensure all energies are clean and safe before and after ceremonies.
Rooms here are humble. The can be shared three to a room! But this is an excellent place to visit for plant medicine first timers, or those interested in Peruvian indigenous cultures. One visitor who enjoyed his stay here includes the head of Tibetan Buddhism. He said one night here was like ’25 years of meditative practice.’ So hey, if it’s good enough for him…
Why it’s great: Plenty of Western medical attention is mixed in with authentic indigenous ceremonies
Kelly Slater, Michelle Rodriguez and Graham Hancock are but a few celebrities who have visited this Costa Rican resort. Talks by leading alternative health experts and mystics are often a highlight here, as is the excellent vegan cuisine.
Spiritual healing, intellectual stimulation, physical wellness, and luxuriating in nature all take place in lush, large, highly private surroundings punctuated by a cooling, soothing swimming pool. The gracious staff are always on hand to ensure your experience is nothing short of wonderful.
This is one of the best ayahuasca retreats for finding inspiration. It’s not uncommon for motivational talks and seminars to take place here, given by high profile people in the world of spirituality, including Dr Joseph Mercola, Foster and Kimberly Gamble, Panache Desai, and many others. However, we have reservations about the number of people who are involved in ceremonies. This can be up to 70! We don’t think that gives you the personalised attention you may need.
Want more details about what goes on here? Check out our in depth review here.
Where: Costa Rica
Why it’s great: There are some excellent lifestyle talks given here by alternative celebrities.
This place is insanely luxurious! It all happens within 6.5 hectares of gardens surrounded by water, in a mill house that now holds celebrations.
With genuine care at its roots, this retreat covers every aspect of what you might need for you to initiate deep healing journeys through self-awareness.
An extended team of 25 people, led by a trained psychologist, will make sure you’ll unpack by day what you experience by night. They are Europe’s best at their craft, starting with holotropic breathwork, yoga, energy therapies, healing massage, hypnotherapy, and silent ecstatic dance, all the way to food awareness workshops.
What’s cool about them is that they’re always open to making changes in their integration program according to the needs of the ones arriving. They’ve got a prep video call before the retreat, offer guidelines for preparation, and later on integration, including group calls.
What’s important to know here is that they only invite highly experienced shamans, part of, or trained according to ancestral traditions of tribes from Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.
Where: Barcelona and Ibiza, Spain
Why it’s great: Their integration is gold and the food is gonna make you crawl out of bed every single time!
Authentic Ecuadorian Shamans help guide your unforgettable experience through consciousness. Over the course of 12 days, they will lead you through your experiences with ayahuasca and San Pedro. This is one of the best ayahuasca retreats for those who want to ensure they’re in trusted, experienced hands. Unlike other countries, in Ecuador, shamans have to be certified and authorised to practice their trade. We think that’s a great thing!
Expect all the mod cons in this Andean retreat, including not only wifi and hot showers, but also hot tubs and a sauna. Gaia Sagrada has all the facilities you need to help you focus on your inner journey. Choose between shared dorm rooms, or Casa Tranquila, the house with private bedrooms but shared common areas.
After just a few hours here, you’ll soon understand why this aya retreat is top ranked on all review sites.
Why it’s great: The shamans are highly experienced and regulated. You won’t just get some guy who fancies himself one because he took ayahuasca a few times!
Apart from ayahuasca, Pulse works with plant medicines such as Nunu, which is fine. But they also work with kambo. We do NOT approve of or recommend the latter, due to the fact that this causes serious stress and harm to animals.
Still, this is one of the best ayahuasca retreats for those who want the experience in the natural setting that aya comes from. The Shipibo shamans on staff here obviously have great respect for the plants and the knowledge and healing that comes with them. You’ll feel like you’re part of their community as you merge with nature at the 2.2 million hectare Pacaya Samiria National Reserve surrounding the retreat.
Fresh, clean, delicious meals promote your ayahuasca experience, and you’ll learn to integrate healthy habits into your routine with our yoga classes and extensive selection of gym equipment, too.
It’s strongly believed here that the health of physical body sets the foundation for the health of the energetic body – a fact that is often ignored at ayahuasca retreats. Relax your mind and spirit with sound baths, meditations, pranayama breathwork, and chanting circles. Or simply enjoy the tranquil views of the Ucayali River, surrounded by lush biodiversity and the mesmerizing sounds of the jungle.
Why it’s great: You’re deep in the heart of nature – where Mother Aya is from, and wants you to be! However, be aware that any needed medical care is quite a distance away.
The excellence of this retreat is the attention to detail in every aspect! There’s the magical setting of the jungle (Atlantic rainforest) together with the astonishing beaches of the Atlantic ocean. You’ll love the bungalow accommodations with breathtaking views, and the delicious vegan and vegetarian food.
But this is also one of the best ayahuasca retreats for hospitality, personal safety, attention, and comfort. We also love that they prepare their own organic ayahuasca, grown on their own land.
The highlight of this retreat is the workshops by the co-founder, Silvia Polivoy. She’s a licensed psychologist who has been working with modified states of consciousness and ayahuasca for over 25 years. Silvia has integrated all her background with shamanic techniques to effectively guide those who feel attracted to this combination of eastern and western methods.
Participants learn to journey safely to source, which is the spiritual realm. Through this, they can transform their blockages and reconnect with their power. These techniques can be used not just during the ayahuasca ceremonies; they can also be applied in everyday life to overcome obstacles.
There are yoga classes on the day of the ceremony to help participants feel a deeper connection with themselves. This is also very helpful in preparation for the ceremony. There is also ample free time to relax, process the experiences, the option to get a massage, and visit the nearby beaches.
Why it’s great: The retreat offers loads of really useful workshops to help you integrate and understand your experience.
Do you know of any of the other best ayahuasca retreats around the world? Let us know in the comments, below!