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By Paradise Harichian
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.
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 an ayahuasca retreat that’s professionally run by knowledgeable shamans and other practitioners. 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. Our staff or people we know have been to all of these, and we can solidly say that we know these retreats will deliver a safe, lifechanging experience.
Nestled in the gorgeous Sacred Valley of Peru, this well structured retreat is pretty much hippy-free. Here, CEOs, top runway models and wealthy couples come to enrich their lives with plant medicines in intimate ceremonies under the guidance of David Walton. An experienced practitioner and long time Valley resident, David is also whisks his guests off on excursions to ruins off the beaten track, forested waterfalls and local markets. Rooms are kitted out with top quality bedding and the common areas feature velvety sofas, HDTV and a crackling fire when the weather gets chilly.
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. Uniquely, the retreat offers blessings and cleansings 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, and often 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 Dalai Lama! So hey, if it’s good enough for him…
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.
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, and unlike other countries, in Ecuador, shamans have to be certified and authorized to practice their trade.
Expect all the mod cons in this Andean retreat, including not only wifi and hot showers, but there are even hot tubs and a sauna 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.
Apart from Ayahuasca, Pulse works with plant medicines such as Nunu, and Kambo, using the traditional practices of the indigenous cultures of the Peruvian Amazon.
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 that 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.
The setting for this retreat is far from the Amazon or Andes! It’s held in a farmhouse built in 1860, which has been fully renovated and transformed into a healing retreat. Located in the province of Beira Alta, tucked in between the two main rivers Mondego and Alva, the views are dominated here by the magnificent Serra de Estrela Mountains. Rooms are rustic, private, and clearly Portuguese with their colonial touches and intricate tiles, whilst the ceremonies occur in a somewhat more unexpected environment – a yurt!
There is no shaman here to conduct the ceremonies, but of course, there is a pre-ceremony meditation in the yurt/maloka, and during the medicine taking, you could be hearing anything from a still silence, to the healing sounds of a gong, flute, or drums to lead you into deeper dimensions of yourself.
The next day, stroll around the beautiful Quinta surrounded by organic olive, fig, plum, apple, and lemon trees. Absorb your experience beside the local waterfall. Return to the retreat for locally sourced organic meals, and revel in how much purer you feel, body and soul.
The excellence of this retreat is the attention to detail in every aspect, the magical setting of the jungle (Atlantic rainforest) together with the astonishing beaches of the Atlantic ocean, the bungalow accommodations with breathtaking views, delicious vegan and vegetarian food, hospitality, focus on safety, personal attention, comfort with modern amenities, and organic ayahuasca grown on the land.
The highlight of this retreat is the workshops created by the co-founder, Silvia Polivoy, a licensed psychologist who has been working with modified states of consciousness and ayahuasca for over 25 years. She has integrated all her background with shamanic techniques to effectively guide those who feel attracted to this combination of eastern and western methods.
The moment you enter the gates of the Spirit Vine center you feel a sense of protection and lightness wash over you, and the serene sounds of the jungle instantly transport you to a relaxed state of mind. The most commonly reported benefits of this retreat are participants discovering the causes of their blockages which are not temporal. The participants learn to journey safely to the source which is the spiritual realm to 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 which 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.