Planning an Ayahuasca Retreat? My recommendations

10th February 2021

ayahuasca retreat

So you’ve decided you want to embrace ancient Shamanic plant medicines by heading on an ayahuasca retreat but don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Deciding to take the plunge into your first ayahuasca retreat is a pretty big deal, and deciding which retreat to go to is an even bigger one. You’ll have many questions, I’m sure. What can I expect on an ayahuasca retreat? Where can I find the best retreats? How do I choose the right ayahuasca retreat for me?

Below I’ve put together as much information as possible about ayahuasca retreats as well as a number of recommendations for the best ayahuasca retreats around the world.


What is ayahuasca?

First things first, what actually is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew that can be dated back over 1,000 years in South America and was traditionally used by ancient Amazonians to aid healing and in spiritual and religious practices. The natural plant medicine is made by boiling together the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine.

The leaves of the Psychotria viridis plant contain a natural hallucinogen known as DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), while the Banisteriopsis caapi vine contains MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) called beta-carbolines that stop the body from breaking down DMT, allowing its effects to work.

The combination of these ingredients creates a powerful psychedelic brew that causes its drinkers an altered state of consciousness which usually includes out-of-body experiences, hallucinations and feelings of euphoria.


Why do people go on an Ayahuasca Retreat?

While ayahuasca has its origins in ancient Amazonian ceremonies, the psychoactive brew has more recently become a focus of spiritual tourism as well.

Ayahuasca is a natural healing medicine and is praised for its ability to help users access repressed memories, increase self-awareness, let go of past traumas and negative thoughts and to feel more connected to the natural world. Describing the exact effects of ayahuasca is difficult as everyone’s journey is different, but many people come away from the experience with profound realisations about themselves and the world around them.

The Shamanic medicine is now also believed to have many long term health benefits including reducing depression and anxiety, as well as treating PTSD, substance addictions and more.

A pretty impressive resume for a simple brew! Makes sense why more and more people are choosing to go on ayahuasca retreats.

With ayahuasca being illegal in some countries such as the USA, Canada and UK, ayahuasca retreats also mean that people from all around the world can travel to a safe setting and experience the substance’s transformative effects without resorting to any sketchy underground ayahuasca dens back home.


What happens at an Ayahuasca Retreat?

An ayahuasca healing retreat is somewhat like a yoga retreat in that a group of people come together to go through a spiritual journey under the care of qualified and experienced teachers. Except in an ayahuasca retreat, guests also take part in ayahuasca ceremonies led by indigenous shamans.

During an ayahuasca ceremony, which commonly takes place at night, a shaman prepares the sacred brew and gives it to participants who gather in a safe sacred space. The effects of ayahuasca usually take around 30 minutes to begin and can last for around 5-6 hours.

While the ayahuasca ceremonies may be the focus of many retreats, most also combine them with ceremonies using other ‘Master Plants’ – plants used in natural shamanic medicine – as well as the healing arts of yoga, meditation, massage, music and more to aid the overall transformation process.

Almost every ayahuasca retreat will also include participants undertaking a special detoxing diet before and during the retreat which includes cutting out most meat, caffeine, alcohol, spices, dairy, citrus and refined sugars in order to prepare your body for the medicine ceremonies.


Recommended Ayahuasca Retreat Centres

During an ayahuasca ceremony, you’ll be putting your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing into the hands of the shaman and the retreat organisers. That’s a lot of responsibility right? This is why it’s best to do your research in advance and stick to the most reputable and recommended ayahuasca retreats.

When it comes to choosing an ayahuasca retreat, there are a few main things to consider. These include the reputation of the centre, the experience and qualifications of the shaman, the type of other guests who will be in the retreat and taking part in the ceremonies with you, the other natural medicines used – are you comfortable taking part in these too? – and the other activities and facilities available at the retreat.

Below are a few of my recommendations for the best ayahuasca retreats around the world to get you started.


Ayahuasca Retreat in the Americas

Spazio Buzios Brazil

brazil ayahuasca retreat

Let’s be honest – the idea of trying ayahuasca for the first time can be a little daunting. It’s totally understandable if you’re not comfortable immersing yourself immediately into nightly ceremonies in a hut in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest – it’s a bit of a step up from your average detox retreat.

If you’re looking for a soft introduction to ayahuasca in South America, this Brazil ayahuasca retreat is one of my top recommendations. Set in a cosy guesthouse in the beautiful coastal resort town of Armação dos Búzios, this six-day ayahuasca retreat offers a single ayahuasca ceremony – in a small group under the guidance of a respected shaman – combined with plenty of other wellness activities including twice daily yoga, meditation, massages and reiki. Plus the retreat also includes excursions around the beautiful beaches and islands of Búzios so you can enjoy some fun and exploration in between ceremonies. Definitely one of the best ayahuasca retreats in South America for those who are new to Shamanic plant medicine.

Style: Yoga and Ayahuasca Retreat
Duration: 6 days / 5 nights
Price: From €1,131
Closest Airport: Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport (133 km)
Airport pick up included? Yes
Skill Level: Beginner
Languages: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Vegan Friendly? Yes


Vikara Lifestyle Ecuador

recommended ayahuasca retreat ecuador

The only plant medicine retreat centre right on the beach in Ecuador, Vikara offers luxury ayahuasca healing retreats that combine the healing properties of the ocean with the transformative powers of natural medicines to offer guests a life-changing spiritual experience. On their nine-day retreat you’ll be able to experience the profound transformative qualities of two ayahuasca ceremonies, along with the healing effects of other natural medicines through the San-Pedro ceremony – which uses Huachuma, another psychoactive hallucinogenic plant – and the Mexican Temazcal – sweat lodge – ceremony for purification and rebirth. The resort also features an outdoor swimming pool and yoga shala overlooking the ocean for taking care of your body as well as your mind on this highly recommended ayahuasca retreat.


Style: Yoga and Ayahuasca Retreat
Duration: 9 days / 8 nights
Price: From €1,332
Closest Airport: José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (105 km)
Airport pick up included? No, but can be added for € 81 per person
Skill level: Beginner and intermediate
Languages: English, German and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? On request


Huamanwasi Ashram, Peru

peru

Experience ayahuasca where it first originated by immersing yourself in the magical Amazon rainforest, surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes rich in a variety of plants and animal species. Where better to connect fully with the natural world? Huamanwasi Ashram is home to one of the best ayahuasca retreats Peru has to offer, with 14 days to clarify and purify your mind, body and emotions through daily yoga and meditation, medicinal plant baths and ceremonies evoking the healing powers of the ancient Amazonian Master Plants of ayahuasca, wachuma and yawar panga. Look no further for a safe, accommodating and transformative ayahuasca retreat in Peru.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga
Duration: 14 days / 13 nights
Price: From € 1,592
Closest Airport: Cad. FAP Guillermo del Castillo Paredes Airport (15 km)
Airport pick up included? No
Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced
Languages: French and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? On request


Kula Collective, Guatemala

guatemala ayahuasca

Awaken your inner truth at this transformative yoga and ayahuasca retreat in Guatemala. The retreat is run by Kula Collective at The Yoga Forest, a young dynamic earth-based spirit community. Through daily yoga, meditation, reiki and other healing arts on the edge of sacred Lake Atitlan, surrounded by towering volcanoes, you’ll learn to live in the present moment and purge the physical and emotional blockages which are holding you back, followed by ceremonies using ayahuasca, washuma and medicinal mushrooms to cleanse yourself on a spiritual level, aid your journey of self-realisation and help manifest your dreams. This full Shamanic cleanse is guaranteed to help you get as much as possible out of your ayahuasca experience.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga
Duration: 8 days / 7 nights
Price: From € 1,466
Closest Airport: La Aurora International Airport (80 km)
Airport pick up included? No, but can be added for € 94 per person
Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced
Languages: English, Sanskrit and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? On request


Ayahuasca Retreats in Europe

Malaga, Spain

ayahuasca retreats in europe

Although ayahuasca may have originated in South America, and many people do still choose to travel there to take part in ayahuasca ceremonies – USA-based travellers in particular due to the closer proximity – the increasing popularity of natural plant medicines has seen ayahuasca retreats pop up all across the world, including many much closer to home here in Europe.

This six-day ayahuasca retreat in Spain includes three ayahuasca ceremonies led by an experienced Peruvian shaman, as well as daily hatha yoga, a sanango ceremony in which eye drops are used to cleanse eyes and mental processes, and a rapé ceremony using a traditional herbal blend for detoxing both mind and body and getting rid of bad energy. Malaga may sound like an unusual place for a spiritual healing retreat, however, the experience takes place in a charming villa set within 400 hectares of beautiful private countryside, with its own olive grove, vegetable garden and lake for taking long walks amongst nature, plus a swimming pool, outdoor terrace and badminton court for relaxing in your spare time.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga
Duration: 8 days / 7 nights
Price: From € 1,466
Closest Airport: Málaga Airport (8 km)
Airport pick up included? No, but can be added for € 100 per person
Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced
Languages: English and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? Yes


Lagoa, Portugal

portugal

Set in a clifftop villa overlooking the ocean in Portugal’s stunning Algarve, this six-day European ayahuasca retreat includes transformative ayahuasca ceremonies with a Peruvian shaman, daily yoga and rapé sessions, a kambo ceremony and sananga ceremony. Then in your free time, you can make the most of the retreat’s idyllic location by exploring the area’s many scenic hiking routes, surfing on one of the little hidden beaches or simply staying back and enjoying the outdoor pool and terrace with amazing views along the coast. A unique feature of this ayahuasca retreat is that you can also take part in two special 90-minute educational courses with the resident shaman, who has worked with Master Plants in the Amazon rainforest for over 20 years, to help you fully understand the history, traditions and processes behind the ceremonies you’re taking part in. Perfect for the more inquisitive spiritual traveller like myself.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga
Duration: 6 days / 5 nights
Price: From €1,370.
Closest Airport: Faro Airport (40 km)
Airport pick up included? No
Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced
Languages: English and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? Yes


inner-journey, Netherlands

netherlands ayahuasca retreat

Combining sacred plant medicines with another of my favourites – the silent retreat – this unique ayahuasca retreat in the Netherlands is dedicated to helping people overcome trauma, no matter what type or to what degree. It may be a little pricier than other retreats but it’s certainly worth it for the program which is packed with Shamanic medicinal ceremonies, healing therapies with specialist trauma therapists and other activities to aid you in your spiritual healing journey. The silence will give you the opportunity to really listen to and process your thoughts away from the noise and distractions of everyday life, while the schedule of ayahuasca, magic mushroom, kambo, sacred cacao, rapé and sananga ceremonies will aid in cleansing negative thoughts, toxins and energies, leading to deep spiritual and mental healing.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga Silent Retreat
Duration: 7 days / 6 nights
Price: From € 2,995.
Closest Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (13 km)
Airport pick up included? No, but pick up from Haarlem Train Station is
Skill level: Beginner, intermediate and advanced
Languages: Dutch and English
Vegan Friendly? Yes


Ceremony & Yoga, Ibiza, Spain

ayahuasca healing retreats

Ibiza might not necessarily be the first destination that comes to mind when you’re planning a healing spiritual retreat, but hear me out. Set in a beautiful house secluded in nature with an outdoor pool, garden and large deck for yoga practise, Villa Chaya is the perfect spot for embracing the natural world and connecting with your inner self on this seven day ayahuasca retreat. Led by two qualified yoga teachers from Peru and Argentina, you’ll take part in daily yoga classes, shakti dance sessions, and mindfulness and breathwork workshops, all leading the path to the ancient medicine ceremony which will help you boost your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and awareness.


Style: Ayahuasca and Yoga
Duration: 7 days / 6 nights
Price: From €1,000
Closest Airport: Ibiza Airport (16 km)
Airport pick up included? Yes
Skill level: Intermediate
Languages: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish
Vegan Friendly? On request

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