The Best & Safest Ayahuasca Retreat: How to Choose (2024)

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

These tips will help you choose the best Ayahuasca retreat that will allow you to have a safe and transformative Ayahuasca experience!

You heard the medicine calling and have decided to attend an Ayahuasca retreat — awesome! At this point you’re probably uncertain about what to expect, yet excited for what’s to come – two totally natural and common feelings. Choosing the best, and safest, retreat center for your Ayahuasca journey will do wonders in helping quell any uneasiness you have surrounding the process, but how to find it?

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

 

The Best Ayahuasca Retreat

 

What is an Ayahuasca Retreat?

An Ayahuasca retreat is a retreat center that offers Ayahuasca ceremonies. It’s important to know that while attending an Ayahuasca retreat is an incredibly sacred and transformative journey, it’s also a very challenging one.

Before you decide on a retreat center, I highly recommend you do your research on Ayahuasca so you know exactly what to expect from its effects.

While the reasons someone might decide to go on an Ayahuasca retreat are varied, it generally comes down to healing, spirituality, and enlightenment. Deciding which Ayahuasca retreat to book will be the biggest factor in the kind of experience you have.

A few years ago, I went on an Ayahuasca retreat at the Gaia Sagrada retreat center in Ecuador. This post is in no way sponsored by them, but I feel completely comfortable suggesting this place to everyone with the same values who are looking for a spiritual, transformative experience.

My time at the retreat center was profoundly life-altering, and I recommend it to anyone looking to heal trauma, deepen their spirituality, and learn about the traditional, sacred traditions of Ayahuasca.

 

Ask Yourself “Why”

Understanding the reasons why you want to go on an Ayahuasca Retreat will be the biggest factor in picking the right center for you. Ask yourself why you want to work with Ayahuasca, what your expectations are in regards to the environment, if the culture of your destination is important to you, and what intentions you want to set with your retreat.

Truly understanding your “why” will make all the difference in how the Ayahuasca works for you — including how you interpret the experience once it’s over.

 

Ayahuasca Retreat Location

One of the most important aspects in choosing the best Ayahuasca retreat is to pick one in a country with clearly defined Ayahuasca laws. Ayahuasca is legal in many South American countries including Ecuador (where I did mine), Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia.

Ayahuasca is also legal in many European countries, but as native South American tribes use the substance in a traditional way, there is more authenticity choosing a retreat in South America.

Read more: How Ayahuasca Changed My Life

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

 

Do Your Research

When researching where I wanted to do my Ayahuasca retreat, I used the site AyaAdvisors.org. This site was an invaluable resource as it listed out the different retreats by rating, price, and category.

Along with these parameters, I recommend learning as much as you can about the different retreat options, and what each retreat generally entails. There are retreats of different lengths, retreats that include the substance San Pedro into the itinerary, and retreats with different mission statements.

It’s only when you read through each of your options can you truly know what the best one for you will be!

 

Read the Reviews

Reading what others have said about your retreat will be a major factor in picking a reputable one. Read both the positive and negative reviews, and come up with a list of factors that are most important to you. For example, different people have different ideas of what comfort means, and what is a negative experience for one person might not be a negative experience for the next.

And when you think you’re done reading the reviews, go ahead and read some more!

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

 

Ask for Recommendations

If you feel comfortable, then asking your personal and professional network for Ayahuasca retreat recommendations will be hugely beneficial in finding a great retreat center. While it’s always an option to book a retreat based on the research you’ve done online, there’s nothing quite like getting a recommendation from someone you personally know.

 

Ask About Their Support System

Once you’ve narrowed down your potential retreat-center list to a few of your favorites, reach out to the center for more information. In particular, ask about their support system. After your Ayahuasca ceremonies, you’re going to go through a reintegration process. Ensuring that your retreat center has trained employees to help you through this is extremely important as, without it, the days following your retreat can be extremely difficult.

At the retreat center I chose, there was an integration circle that helped us all understand our experience more thoroughly. You may also want to look into other healing modalities once you return home to help integrate all that you have learned. We both practice and teach Pranayama Breathwork, which can be done both online and in-person.

Read more: 10 Important Wellness and Self-Care Tips for Travelers

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

 

Know the Safety Procedures

Different retreat centers have different safety procedures in place, and while choosing a center based solely on this depends on your comfort level, there are basics that the center should provide. Every reputable retreat center should be equipped with an on-site doctor or nurse that can assist you should they be needed.

Additionally, it’s always smart to choose a retreat center that requires a medical background check for everyone involved. You want to make sure you and your fellow participants will be safe taking the medicine!

 

Take Your Fellow Participants Into Account

Before you book your retreat, take into account class size — how many people do they allow at the retreat? A larger group will have a very different feel from a small group size. The ratio of staff to participants is also important, and there should always be enough staff to help the participants through their Ayahuasca journey.

Additionally, if this is important to you, take note of whether or not your retreat is male-only, female-only, or mixed.

How to Choose the Best (And Safest) Ayahuasca Retreat

 

Research the Shamans

The Shamans who guide you through your Ayahuasca journey are so important. Make sure you thoroughly research the Shamans who work at your chosen retreat center, ensuring that they can speak your language, have extensive histories with the substance, and that they are skilled in their practice.

When I chose my retreat to be in Ecuador, I did so in part because of the high standard the country has for their Shamans, and because the Gaia Sagrada retreat center has Shamans who speak English.

However, if the Shamans don’t speak your language but you love the retreat center you’ve chosen, research and see if the center provides apprentices or translators who do speak your language.

 

 

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26 Comments

  1. Question: I hope you can help me with a question. Do you know how the Colorado – Origen Sagrada houses participants?
    Thank you

  2. Hey,
    I keep coming back to ‘temple of the way of light in Peru’ have you heard anything about this place?

    Many thanks,
    Becky 🙂

  3. I went to Gaia Sagrada just last month. I live in Cuenca and I finally had to check it out for myself, been hearing about the place for years. I have to say something to the topic about Christine the owner and her ceremony here and the slander that has been said about her.

    Christine was absolutely wonderful and I’ll be going back! She was funny, wise, sweet, and she was in the San Pedro ceremony. Everyone loves her, the staff, the visitors, the whole place was high vibration and so was she. She’s an angel and the work she does in this world is really important. She is an amazing healer and I’m so glad I was in her ceremony. I watched her work miracles on those people and she did on me too.

    I asked her about the comment about the yelling thing because I read all that stuff too and that’s what made me hesitate before I saw all the good reviews on ayaadvisors and finally decided to go see for myself. She sighed and said it was some fired ex shamans making up stories about Gaia and her in order to try to put Gaia out of biz so they could get Gaia’s clients.

    They were spreading rumors and putting all that stuff on reddit so they could try to diminish Gaia and get the overflow to their own centers, but it didn’t work. Gaia is still flourishing and the people at Gaia are just amazing, including all the other shamans and Christine.

    You can’t put a big light down. Gaia is changing the world. I am so glad I chose Gaia Sagrada as the place to go despite all those insults about Christine on reddit by a few users all parroting the same thing, which made it seem really suspicious to me. I am glad I went and read all the reviews at ayaadvisors.org and tripadvisor.com or I would have been so misled by those few people on reddit.

    It turns out it was just 5 or 6 users on reddit supporting fired ex shamans that were all over the place on every thread saying that stuff about her on reddit. Every other comment they were also putting the fired ex shaman website center’s name in the midst of their insults about her, so it was pretty obvious what was going on.

    Since then the moderators seem to have done a lot of clean up on all that redirecting to the fired ex shaman centers, but the insults are still there about Christine. It’s pretty obvious it’s all these same users though. It’s only about 5 or 6 of them that are putting the meanest insults about her and saying she yells, and all kinds of stuff that is so untrue about her.

    It’s too bad there’s all that slander there because Christine was just amazing in the San Pedro ceremony. She changed everyone’s lives. She is a powerful shaman and helped me release trauma I tried to let go all my life. Finally I’m over it. Finally! I am forever grateful to her and she changed my life.

    I watched her help all those people in our ceremony like a pro. She really knows what she’s doing and it shows that she has a lot of experience. She has literally done thousands of ceremonies. People have no idea how amazing she is. She’s a master. She’s older than all the other shamans too. She’s an elder and she has been doing this for a long time, but still looks really young, so she’s doing something right!

    Don’t be fooled by those idiots on reddit saying she yells and stuff. She doesn’t. She’s a really cool person, a miracle worker, she’s gentle and sweet with people, and she has a really great sense of humor and keeps it light while handling some really serious healing. She knows just what to ask them to help them find their own answers. She doesn’t tell them what to do.

    I think it’s because she’s so high vibration there are some jealous people attacking her and trying to put her out of business by lying about her because they can’t even match what she’s doing.

    Her ceremony was actually the best one of the retreat where the real healing happens. It was like that for everyone. Everyone the next day was raving about her ceremony and how it helped them turn the corner in their healing. It was the program buster, like she says. It was a really fun ceremony too and ranged from tears to laughter and everything in between.

    The ayahuasca is great, medicine strong, all that, and the shamans for that were great, but her ceremony is where it all comes together and the programs get really changed. A new way of seeing everything comes in, a fresh look on life. I will never be depressed again after that San Pedro ceremony. I see how the programming works too clearly now. Real clarity came in her ceremony for me. I simply can’t get trapped by my programing now. It’s too clear now how it works. San Pedro and Christine showed me. Her medicine is magical.

    I was just at Gaia Sagrada a month ago, Sept 2022, if you’re looking for a time table. The other shamans, just wow. The music, their energy, they were incredible. She has really surrounded herself with an incredible team. The staff and volunteers are lovely and compassionate, really helpful, took care of everything I needed and everything everyone else needed too. I felt really safe every moment. The land is beautiful, the weather was great. Everything was comfortable. Food was unlimited and tasty.

    And the owner Christine was great. 10 stars. The people love her and they love Gaia, so don’t believe that BS on reddit. The image those naysayers are putting on reddit is an attack, it’s really clear.

    The vibes at Gaia were 100% great and everyone there is happy. The Ecuadorian workers play volleyball at lunchtime and were laughing all the time, they were happy. The volunteers were happy. The staff was happy. Whatever lies they have on reddit, it wasn’t what I was seeing there at all. I sure am glad I went and checked it out for myself. What a different picture than those 5 or 6 liars put on reddit.

  4. Hi Cristy,

    Thanks for the useful blog and Q&A.

    Other than Etnika, do you know of any retreats with medical team on site? Preferably in Europe?

  5. Hi Christy,
    Any recommendations for Ayahuasca in Mexico, Quintana Roo?

    Thanks

  6. Can someone who doesn’t do drugs at all- not weed or even Tylenol for that matter- participate in an Ayahuasca ceremony and take the medicine? TIA

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to. 🙂

  7. Any good reputatable locations in Peru that offer a visit to Machu Pichu?
    I’m traveling solo.

  8. Thank you for this little blog, & the links.
    I will do my research.
    I live in England but am willing to tavel.
    I don’t suppose there are any places in the UK?

    Thanks again
    Ant

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      I’m sure there are! I would search for your specific location and read lots of reviews — keeping all of these tips in mind!

  9. Hi, any recommendations in Australia?

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      I don’t, I’m sorry!

  10. Elvira Crucubile says:

    I will appreciate your feedback about NJ sites.

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      I don’t know of any at the moment. Good luck!

  11. Hi Christy,
    I have been so much research on Ayahuasca retreats and I think I have narrowed it down to two. One offers just Ayahuasca, the other both Ayahuasca and San Pedro. From my research I have read doing both Aya and San Pedro help with a balance. Not sure if you have any experience with this or not.
    The two I am trying to decide on are Spirit Vine in Brazil and Gia Sagrada in Ecuador.
    Any infor would be wonderful.
    Thanks!

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      Hi Erin. I went to Gaia Sagrada! I loved it. I just can’t comment on the current shamans because I know things shifted quite a bit over the last 2 years and the shamans I sat with in ceremony are no longer there. I do love the location. I would check current reviews (over the past year) if possible to make sure people are still saying good things.

      1. Hi Christy. I have been researching various retreats and like you have narrowed it down to Gaia Sagrada. The place seems beautiful, they offer what I’m looking for, and their reviews seem largely positive. I have even reached out to them with questions and the staff seems responsive and helpful from what I can tell. The one negative comment I’ve seen from more than one prior guest (mostly on reddit) had to do with the owner (Christine) bullying or yelling at guests. Did you observe anything of this type during your stay? Did you interact with the owner enough to get a sense of her personality to judge whether such comments may have merit? This is the one thing that is giving me pause before registering, so will appreciate any thoughts you can offer.

        1. Christy Woodrow says:

          I did not experience any yelling or bullying from Christine. When I was there, she didn’t facilitate the ceremonies (besides the last San Pedro ceremony which I did not attend), so the most I saw of her was when she did a talk on our first night. I didn’t experience anyone in our group having a negative experience with her. I know they have changed shamans over the last couple of years so I would check current reviews (over the past year) if possible to make sure people are still saying good things about the shamans themselves. To me, that is the most important part of the retreat. You want to feel safe with your shaman.

        2. I was just there in Sept 2022 at Gaia Sagrada and Christine the owner was great. No one at Gaia yells or bullies guests, that’s just silly. That stuff on reddit about yelling or bullying is a bunch of bs from a few users on reddit (read what Gaia put there) trying to defame Gaia and redirect people to their own center.

          I found Gaia and the owner to be fine! I was with her in both San Pedro ceremonies, saw her at the retreat several times and interacted with her, so I would know. I enjoyed my retreat quite a lot and everyone at Gaia was nice.

          1. Oh and the shamans there right now are otherworldly! They were great! Medicine took me far!

  12. Ronda Hamilton says:

    Hi Christy, are there any safe and affordable Ayahuasca retreats in Peru or Costa Rica that you know of?

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      Hi Ronda! I’ve heard great things about Soltara and Rythmia – both in Costa Rica. I believe they are a bit pricey though.

  13. Hi
    Do you have any recommendations for a trusted Ayahuasca centers in California?

    1. Christy Woodrow says:

      Hi Shawn. I know a few people who have been to Joshua Tree with Arizona Yage Assembly and have all good things to say about them. They don’t have a website, but if you look them up on an internet search, you’ll find their most recent dates for ceremony. Enjoy!

      1. Hi Christy!

        I am wondering if you discovered in your research that the experiences of the retreats in the United States are dampened because of drug regulations. Several of the things I have read state that the centers located in the US are made to practice within specific guidelines and I’m wondering if that may hinder the full potential of what an ayahuasca retreat may provide. Does that make sense? My husband is weary about going to another country that he is unfamiliar with. I saw that in the above comment you mentioned a retreat in Arizona that had positive reviews from people that you know personally. Do you know of any other places in the US that are recommended by personal contacts? Thanks!

        1. Christy Woodrow says:

          Hi Jessica! I don’t know of any others. The one I recommended is actually in Joshua Tree, California. I wish I knew of more!