Top Ayahuasca Ceremonies in Peru

Planning an ayahuasca experience in Peru? Learn about the potential benefits and risks, how to prepare, and discover top retreat options.

Overview: Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic plant mixture that offers potential benefits but also carries risks. It is important to prepare and research before participating in an ayahuasca ceremony. Peru is a popular destination for ayahuasca, but it is crucial to choose a reputable facilitator and consider factors like safety protocols, medical screening, integration support, location, ceremony format, and duration. Temple of the Way of Light, Ayahuasca Foundation, Mai Niti, Etnikas, and Psychonauta are some notable retreat centers in Peru. Safety and thorough research are key to a transformative and positive ayahuasca experience.

Ayahuasca and Traditional Shamanism in Peru

Taking ayahuasca is a big adventure, and like any journey, one needs to prepare. There are a huge variety of experiences available—from sketchy basements of shops in urban centers to high-end luxury resorts to isolated retreats in the jungle where plants guide the process.

It's debatable whether one can find a traditional ayahuasca ceremony. Use of ayahuasca varies throughout the vast territory of the Amazon. Ayahuasca goes by many names, is used in countless formats and rituals, and perhaps most importantly, inside a unique culture.

Traditionally, ayahuasca was drunk only by those who had undertaken extensive training to work with it. However, now indigenous people have decided to share ayahuasca with the world.

Now it is possible to find many types of ayahuasca ceremonies, which are changing to adapt to the modern world. In this article, we focus on several different styles and locations in one of the most popular ayahuasca destinations on the planet—Peru.

Benefits and Potential Risks of Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is most commonly a mixture of two plants: the chacruna bush (Psychotria viridis), which contains the classic psychedelic compound N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi), which contains compounds called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). When these plants are combined, they create a powerful psychedelic experience that lasts for 4-6 hours.

Treating ayahuasca casually is not recommended. Ayahuasca certainly helps some people, but this is only possible by working within certain precautions.

Before signing up for an ayahuasca ceremony, it's essential to accept that it isn't a magic pill to fix your life. Working with ayahuasca can be somewhat unpredictable, and no one can tell you what will happen during the experience. Weighing both benefits and risks deserves careful thought before drinking the dark, bitter brew.

Ayahuasca Benefits

Ayahuasca has a reputation for healing. Research shows promise for ayahuasca offering relief from a variety of mental and physical health conditions, including depression, anxiety, addiction, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other health concerns. Many also report experiencing changes, clarity, or release on an emotional level with lasting benefits.

There are numerous stories of people sharing experiences that seem to go beyond what science can explain. Some individuals claim to have found relief from untreatable conditions like cancer or autoimmune diseases through ayahuasca. However, it's important to note that such cases are rare and often require extensive and dedicated work. It's crucial to approach ayahuasca without demanding specific outcomes, as having specific expectations can often lead to disappointment.

Many people are attracted to ayahuasca for other potential benefits, such as discovering meaning, finding purpose, exploring spirituality, gaining creative inspiration, experiencing inner peace, and appreciating the beauty of life. Ayahuasca has a multifaceted impact, and it encourages individuals to explore all aspects of their lives with an open mind.

Ayahuasca offers numerous potential benefits, but it should be used in a controlled and responsible manner. It's important to remember that the benefits are not guaranteed, and ayahuasca may not be suitable for everyone.

Ayahuasca Risks

While the upside is promising, there are risks to working with ayahuasca. Even for people in good physical and mental health, ayahuasca is intense. Fear and anxiety are normal parts of the experience. An honest examination of one's life with ayahuasca can lead to growth but might be a difficult process.

While there are potential benefits to working with ayahuasca, it's important to understand the risks involved. Even for individuals in good physical and mental health, ayahuasca can be an intense experience that may evoke fear and anxiety. Engaging in an honest exploration of one's life with ayahuasca can lead to personal growth, but it can also be a challenging process.

Prior to taking ayahuasca, it is crucial to ensure that you are physically fit. Individuals with cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, should seek professional medical advice before participating in an ayahuasca ceremony.

Conditions such as epilepsy, liver problems, and kidney problems also pose concerns. If you have a personal or family history of psychosis, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional and ceremony organizers, as you may not be able to safely take ayahuasca.

If you are taking medications related to depression or anxiety, it may be necessary to discontinue their use under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Certain medications, such as vasodilators, antihistamines, and antipsychotics, may present risks when combined with ayahuasca. If you have any concerns regarding medication, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider and communicate with the ceremony facilitators.

It is strongly urged to never withhold information about medication or omit any medical history when applying to participate in an ayahuasca ceremony. Retreat providers rely on your honesty to ensure a safe and supportive environment for everyone involved.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Ayahuasca Ceremony in Peru

Drinking ayahuasca is only one part of the journey to Peru. One will be navigating a different culture, a land far from home, and placing a huge amount of trust in whoever is facilitating the experience.

There are reports of misconduct such as theft, manipulation, sexual abuse, rape, and even deaths. Ayahuasca in Peru has become a business for legitimate curanderos — a traditional practitioner of indigenous medicine — and charlatans alike.

That said, every year thousands of people safely experience ayahuasca in Peru. With some careful planning and preparation, you can have a safe trip too. Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Research: Being informed helps ease anxiety, prepare well, and find the ceremonial style that works for you. Be sure to understand if a ceremony involves other plants and their effects.
  • Facilitation: It's important to know who is leading the ceremony, who is there to help, and what safety protocols they have in place. Take the time to learn about their reputation and background. Find out about the lineage they come from, the type of music they use, the format of the ceremony, and their training. This will help you feel more confident and comfortable in choosing the right facilitator for your ayahuasca experience.
  • Safety: It's crucial to consider how the facilitators of the ceremony handle emergencies. If you have specific health or personal circumstances, it's important to choose a location that provides access to the necessary services you may require. This ensures that you can feel secure and supported throughout your ayahuasca journey.
  • Medical Screening: It's important to note that most ayahuasca ceremonies do not have a doctor present on-site. However, certain retreat centers may have medical staff and conduct screenings before the ceremony. This can provide an additional layer of assurance and ensure that your health and well-being are taken into consideration during the ayahuasca experience.
  • Integration and Preparation: Different ayahuasca groups offer varying levels of support for integration and preparation. Some groups provide online group work sessions in the weeks leading up to and following the ceremony. Additionally, they may offer individual support from therapists or coaches. On the other hand, certain groups conduct ceremonies without mental health professionals. Remember, adequate integration and preparation can greatly enhance the overall ayahuasca experience.
  • Physical Location: When choosing a place to experience ayahuasca, you'll come across a range of options, from luxurious five-star resorts to rustic jungle huts. Each option has its own advantages and tradeoffs. It's important to consider your ideal setting and how it aligns with your goals before making a commitment. Do you prefer being immersed in the rainforest or surrounded by mountains? 
  • Ceremony Format: Consider your preferences when it comes to the format of the ayahuasca ceremony. Think about how you feel about elements like prayer, ritual, or group sharing. Are you interested in experiencing the traditional Shipibo culture with their unique Icaros songs? Or do you prefer a more contemporary approach with medicine songs? 
  • Duration: Determine the length of your ayahuasca journey. Are you interested in a retreat where you can immerse yourself in multiple ceremonies and activities? Or would you prefer a single ceremony experience? What about an extended dieta involving specific dietary and lifestyle requirements. 

Preparing for an Ayahuasca Ceremony in Peru

Deciding to drink ayahuasca is a significant choice that requires courage and commitment to embrace the unknown. While ayahuasca commands respect, preparing for an upcoming ceremony need not be a source of anxiety. To make the most of your ayahuasca experience, it's essential to take time and prepare yourself:

  • Show respect: Ayahuasca is a sacred tradition practiced by different tribes with unique beliefs. While you may not fully understand everything that happens in a ceremony, conducting research and approaching the experience with an open mind can make a difference.
  • Follow the diet: The ayahuasca diet involves specific restrictions on food and activities to prepare your body and mind for the journey. Adhering to the diet guidelines is a common practice, as it aims to avoid potential complications by excluding certain foods.
  • Set an intention: Reflect on why you want to take ayahuasca. What are you seeking to learn or change? What is your desired outcome? Setting intentions can serve as helpful motivations and guide you during the integration process as well.
  • Manage expectations: It's important to recognize that intentions are not guaranteed outcomes. They are more like possibilities. Since it is impossible to predict what ayahuasca will reveal, maintaining a sense of curiosity is key.

Top Ayahuasca Ceremonies in Peru

There are numerous ayahuasca ceremonies available in Peru, offering a wide range of options. Selecting the best one for you is a personal decision that relies on factors such as your experience, intentions, budget, and availability.

For a comprehensive ayahuasca experience in Peru, many practitioners suggest considering extended retreats with multiple ceremonies or traditional plant dietas, which may involve combining ayahuasca with other plants.

Below, we have included a selection of options catering to different budgets and comfort levels. However, we highly recommend conducting your own research to ensure you find the right fit for your needs and preferences.

Temple of the Way of Light

Perhaps the most renowned center in Peru, the Temple of the Way of Light is well-established and highly respected, employing experienced Shipibo healers. Expect traditional icaros — traditional songs or chants sung by curanderos, flower baths, and access to many master plants to learn from on an extensive permaculture site.

The center is equipped with a dedicated team of facilitators who offer both group and one-on-one sessions to help you prepare for and integrate your ayahuasca experiences. They use various techniques, including traditional therapy and practices inspired by Eastern philosophies, to support your overall well-being.

Ayahuasca Foundation

The Ayahuasca Foundation is a retreat center also offering education about plant medicine traditions in Iquitos, Peru. Community outreach and reeducation, environmental conservation, and sustainable practices like permaculture are part of the foundation’s ethos, along with scientific research.

The center offers several extended learning opportunities, sometimes lasting months, as well as typical ayahuasca retreats. Peruvian “maestros,” experienced healers, lead the ceremonies which often include participation by those attending in certain activities and practices, such as singing and group integration.

Mai Niti

A smaller, family-run center by a father-and-daughter team who are well respected in the small community of Isla San Francisco in Pucallpa, Peru. While any length of time is welcome, the maestros encourage longer stays and take a special interest in people with challenging or complex health situations.

Mai Niti is a center located within a Shipibo community, offering an authentic ayahuasca experience that focuses more on the traditional aspects rather than luxurious amenities. The center operates with the help of dedicated volunteers who assist the maestros, the experienced healers.

Attendees also have the opportunity to have consultation calls with Maestra Lucila, where you can discuss any medical conditions or concerns you may have prior to participating in the ceremonies.


In the Sacred Valley of Peru, Etnikas employs both female and male Shipibo and Qero (shamans of the high Andes.) Etnikas puts an emphasis on safety with medical consultations with medical professionals, from cardiologists to psychiatrists. A doctor is also onsite during the ceremony.

At the center, safety is a top priority, which helps alleviate concerns and allows participants to fully embrace and surrender to the ayahuasca experience. Additionally, the center offers volunteering opportunities in collaboration with an organization called Human Actions.


Psychonauta, situated in the jungle 100km from Iquitos, provides immersive dietas led by Shipibo-Conibo maestros. At this center, you have the option to have your own jungle hut and stay there for as short as a week or spend months there engaging in regular use of ayahuasca.

Each ceremony at Psychonautica is conducted by two shamans, supported by facilitators who are available throughout the journey to ensure a safe and transformative experience. While Psychonauta may not offer luxury accommodations, it provides an affordable opportunity to delve deeper into the world of plant medicine.

A Brief Summary

Ayahuasca can be a transformative tool, but it must be used safely and intentionally under the guidance of experienced facilitators. It's crucial to understand the risks involved and invest time in thorough research, including researching retreat centers and assessing their reputations.

Ensuring safety is non-negotiable. Once you're confident that ayahuasca is safe for you and have found your ideal ceremony in Peru, embarking on this journey has the potential to impact your life in a positive way. 

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