It’s no surprise that Peru is a must-see destination for many travelers. From Machu Picchu tours and the Rainbow Mountains to the rich history, delicious food, and unique culture, visiting Peru is an unforgettable experience.
Aside from taking hikes or tours, many tourists enjoy immersing themselves in traditions or festivals like Inti Raymi or a spiritual Ayahuasca ceremony.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Peru to partake in an Ayahuasca ceremony or are curious to know more about why people describe it as a spiritual awakening, we discuss everything you might need to know.
What is Ayahuasca?
So, can you do Ayahuasca in Peru? Yes, you can. First of all, it is a good idea to eliminate any misconceptions you have about Ayahuasca. Despite the tabloid media and other news, Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. It is not something to get high and enjoy the moment or a magic pill that will solve your problems. For the indigenous people of the Amazon, Ayahuasca is more than a simple plant, it is a spirit, a sacred and ancestral ritual for healing.
And what exactly is Ayahuasca? It is an infusion made by shamans of the Amazon jungle. It serves to enter altered states of consciousness and obtain new perspectives on life. Historically, it is known that many visited shamans to heal themselves from physical, mental, or emotional ailments. In general, those who drank from the infusion did so in order to receive guidance from the “spirit” that inhabits the plant. Today, the tradition remains strongly rooted in Ayahuasca ceremonies. And during the last decades, shamans began to serve the infusion to different patients under their supervision.
Ayahuasca is a jungle vine that grows in the middle of the jungle. It is commonly found in the territories of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and the Guyanas. The plant is quite revered by the indigenous tribes as well as the shamans of the Andean regions. It is considered a “Master Plant”. The term Ayahuasca derives from the ancient Quechua language. The Quechua words “Aya” translates to the dead, while “Huasca” translates to vine or rope. That is to say, the “Rope of the Dead” or the “Vine of the Dead”. The concoction has been used for more than 5000 years for both individual and collective healing. If you are looking to visit Machu Picchu, you can enjoy one of these ceremonies.
How Ayahuasca is Prepared?
Despite common belief, preparing Ayahuasca in Peru is quite difficult. Most of those who try it do not have the desired effects or even have bad experiences accompanied by indigestion. Therefore, if you are looking to try the real thing, you have to travel to the Amazon basin and do it with a renowned Shaman. Ayahuasca is made by shamans using the Ayahuasca vine and the Chacruno leaves. Both can be obtained naturally in the middle of the Amazon basin. The Ayahuasca vine naturally contains natural chemical compounds that resemble DMT. While the Chacruno leaves allow its metabolization within the body.
According to tradition, these two plants must be collected on a full moon or in the morning. In addition, whoever picks it up must be fasting. It takes about ten kilos of Ayahuasca to prepare the infusion. For this, the Ayahuasca vine is crushed to make them easier to cook. Then a kilo of Chacruna is added. Depending on the shaman, the concoction can include tobacco and coca leaves.
Note that the preparation is boiled for 12 hours in about 50 liters of water. And while it is being prepared, it is accompanied by shamanic chants known in the Amazon as Icaros. It is also accompanied by tobacco puffs while asking for specific intentions. Both the songs and the intentions are invocations to the spirit of Ayahuasca. The 50 liters of the initial preparation is reduced to only 2 liters of Ayahuasca. The end result is a liquid with a viscous texture and a reddish-ocher color. This is one of the many ways to prepare, but everything will depend on the Shaman and his traditional methods.
Effects of the ayahuasca
The effects of this medicinal infusion can vary greatly depending on the patient, the set and setting, and the dosage. But of one thing you can be sure, the effects produce a before and after in most users. Whether you get deep spiritual insights, insight into your relationships, or a connection to nature, the universe, and your own psyche. Many believe that it helps you reach states of enlightenment, where you approach new understandings of either the sentimental or material dimension of your life. But you shouldn’t get carried away either, as there can also be bad experiences.
The sessions are usually accompanied by intense hallucinations and an altered perception of reality. Time and space seem to alter and you will see your emotions become much more intense in the process. The effects of the infusion can last between 4 to 8 hours, but this will depend a lot on the dosage and preparation of the medicine. Furthermore, contrary to common belief, undertaking this experience requires a great deal of preparation. It is true that not all the available ceremonies offer the necessary guidance and preparation, but if you can do it, it is recommended that you do so.
If you’ve never had experience with psychedelics, your brain may be very impressionable. It is important that you realize that you are under the influence of a psychoactive whose effects will wear off with time. Do not get carried away by fears and emotions to guarantee a good experience. Furthermore, Ayahuasca affects not only your mind but your body as well. Some people may feel lightheaded or generally unwell. But it is not something that lasts forever. Being able to explore Peru can be a great opportunity to explore your psyche
About The Ceremonies
It is a ceremony with strong cultural roots within the original tribes of the Amazon. This is done in a group of 5 to 20 people although this can vary. Within a traditional Ayahuasca ceremony, you will have the opportunity to receive treatment for your soul and let it participate in its own healing. Participants usually arrive early in the evening, as these usually take place at night.
Participants arrive before the ceremony begins to show respect for the healer, or healers, who lead the ceremony. The master of the ceremony or Shaman usually prepares the site for the ceremony first. This consists of cleaning the space with Mapacho tobacco puffs, prayers, songs, and blessings.
After the initial preparations, presentations can take place. If you are planning a trip to Peru, it is a good idea to find out about the different retreats available.
The Beginning of the Ceremony
The start of the ceremony begins in silence, although this may depend on the Shaman. Some choose to sing and bring a welcoming atmosphere to the participants. Keep in mind that any song is not allowed, if not medicine songs or Icaros from the Amazon jungle. The healer may choose to speak with each participant about the intention he seeks to cultivate, the dosage, or other recommendations for a pleasant experience. He then calls each participant to have a cup of Ayahuasca. The healer also drinks a cup after each participant has received a cup of Ayahuasca. The ceremony takes place with the lights off and when the medicine begins to take effect, that is when the healer begins to sing. The songs take place throughout the ceremony and are loaded with an intention. The songs can be accompanied by drums and other instruments.
The beginning of a ceremony can be an unsettling time. As each participant’s consciousness expands, symptoms of dizziness and malaise may appear. Physical purging or vomiting is usually more frequent during the start of the ceremony. The purge is considered a cleansing process where the experience is a metaphysical equivalent where you expel all those trapped feelings and traumas.
Music as a Tool of Healing
Medicine songs are one of the most important parts of the Ayahuasca ceremonies. In the experience, the Shamans sing healing songs called “Icaros.” These songs help the healers to communicate with the spirits and to ask for help in the healing treatments of the patients. Each Icarus has a specific purpose in the ceremony process. The healers sing to invite the spirits to be present and perform the necessary cures.
The healer can sing throughout the ceremony as patients navigate their own visions and experiences. Shamans also use the Icaros to mark the pace and rhythm of the ceremony. Either to raise or lower the intensity. This is most often seen with drum beats that can go faster or slower depending on the timing.
Closing of the Ceremony
The ceremony usually ends with an Icarus that helps close the healing circle. The healer provides patients with protection against any kind of spiritual vulnerability before leaving. After the end of the ceremony, the lights are turned on and a small talk is given.
The shaman is free to add a few words for each of the patients or a general talk. Then the lights go on and people are free to go to rest. The ceremonies can last until dawn, due to the duration of the effects of Ayahuasca. It is one of the strongest and most powerful healing experiences that Peru offers. If you are looking for something that changes your perspective forever, this is a good opportunity.
What to Expect from the Ceremony
For some people, the healer remains a guide who facilitates a comfortable experience. But it is the spirit of the plant that is considered as a teacher or therapist who comes to teach the participant. This spirit could be thought of as an independent entity that transforms the person who welcomes it into it while giving them access to a holistic and dreamlike vision of the world. While for other people, the spirit of the plant could be considered as a guide. But the spirit will function as an internal and intrinsic guide to the individual. This could be considered as an experience of oneself with oneself where the individual himself is the agent of his healing.
So in general, what you can expect from Ayahuasca is an alteration and amplification of your state of consciousness. The Ayahuasca experience can result in an extraordinary encounter with the “I”. As well as the identification of a true “I” previously unrecognized and apparently rediscovered. During the experience, there is no dissolution or loss of consciousness. On the contrary, only one modification of it occurs. The subject is aware throughout the session of who he is, where he is, and what he has taken. By calling the participants by their names, they respond, but this can lead them away from their main visions.
Where to experience Ayahuasca in Peru?
Which Ayahuasca retreat is the best? This is one of the most frequently asked questions among different tourists and foreigners. We believe that in the Peruvian Amazon you will find the best spiritual retreats. But you don’t necessarily have to do it within the Amazon basin. There are places to enjoy ceremonies from Lima to Machu Picchu itself. Although if you are looking for a true and original experience, the best ceremonies will be found in the jungles of Peru. Whether in Cusco, Iquitos, or Puerto Maldonado, you will have wonderful opportunities to enjoy a unique ceremony. Keep in mind that it is important to do it with a certified shaman or with some renowned or prestigious healer. Since there are many people who transform these ceremonies into an exploitative business.
Also within the different lodges that specialize in services within the jungle can offer these ceremonies. Some of these ceremonies can be enjoyed going deep into the jungle. But as with any experience you’re looking to enjoy, do a little research before embarking on it. You can book it along with your tickets to the Inca citadel and enjoy the mysteries of Machu Picchu. The possibilities are many, so it is better to enjoy it with a prestigious agency or company.
Preparing Before Arrival
Before you arrive at the retreat, you must prepare your body. This all starts weeks before you arrive as you have to do a cleansing yourself. To get the best experience possible, there are a few things that you need to do to give yourself the best chance.
Here are the things that you should stop at least a week before you arrive at the temple:
- Smoking cigarettes.
- Smoking marihuana.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Having any caffeine.
- Having sex.
These are done to help make sure your body can go through any withdrawal symptoms – especially with smoking and drinking – so you don’t have them at the temple. Abstaining from sex and masturbation is said to keep your mind clear and free for the best communication between you and your shadow self.
There are also things you should stop doing at least two weeks before you arrive at the temple:
- Taking medications like antidepressants.
- Eating processed foods.
- Often eating meat as well or products from animals (milk, honey, and eggs).
Many medications have ill effects when used with Ayahuasca. There are also claims that the more western medicine will block how Ayahuasca in Peru works. The energy from the medication can stop the healing process and give you a less than authentic experience. What you should do is contact the temple to see what their rules are.
Psychosis medication is one of the things that must be stopped completely. These medications can have deadly effects if taken with Ayahuasca.
The vegan diet is often recommended, as well. Each temple has a different diet that they follow. About two weeks before your arrival, they will recommend starting it. It is what the temple and the healers found work best for each person.
Common Pricing for Retreats
The price of your retreat will vary from place to place. However, we have found some of the most common expenses for each retreat. Keep in mind that it does not include the airfare needed to get to Peru and back.
The lowest amount that has been found is USD 800. This is typical for your week-long stay and covers just what is in the resort.
The price goes up from there. It can range from $1,000 to USD 1,500, depending on the length of your stay. The more extended the visit, the more it costs
Most of the time, you will have to put down a deposit that cannot be refunded. Then you would pay the rest of it the closer you get to your stay date.
Going on a retreat is not going to be a cheap thing. The price reflects the skills of the healers and the amount of attention you would get at each place, as well as the facilities at each place that you can use.
Final Thoughts of an Ayahuasca Ceremony
While there seem to be many benefits to this ceremony, it has to be done with care. Without the necessary care, there is no way to know if this is safe. More research has to be done on the scientific front to know for sure if this is a safe thing to partake in.
If you are looking for one, though, then Peru is the place to be. An Ayahuasca ceremony in Peru is going to be the only way you can get an authentic experience. Just keep in mind that there are dangers.
Know your risks before you sign up for a retreat. Know that a positive experience isn’t guaranteed no matter what you do.
Remember that there are plenty of people out there doing an Ayahuasca ceremony without being trained in it. Keep yourself safe, look into who is doing the ceremony, and actually be a healer. It is the only way to keep yourself safe at the end of the day.