For decades, spiritual seekers and lost souls have been flocking to retreat centres and remote huts in the Amazon rainforest to deep-dive into a transformative, consciousness-expanding psychedelic experience by drinking the entheogenic brew called ayahuasca that contains the psychoactive substance DMT. Traditionally, the sacrament is made of two plants, Banisteriopsis caapi, a climbing vine, and Psychotria Viridis, or Chacruna, a perennial shrub that contains the DMT. Without the caapi vine, an MAO inhibitor, most of the DMT would be dissolved in the stomach without having had its psychoactive effect. In recent years, its use is spreading all over the western world and ayahuasca retreats in Europe are springing up like mushrooms. Some say it’s ten years of therapy crammed into one night and they emerge rewired, some, however, might find it confusing and traumatic. How you wind up after such a profound inner journey depends on many factors such as your psychic constitution, your mindset on the day, the preparations you have made, the ceremonial setting, and the facilitators or shamans who lead it.
Here’s a little summary of all the key aspects of drinking ayahuasca that can help you make an informed choice about the place and the people you do it with. As Tim Ferris said: when you make a decision about who you do ayahuasca with, “you would treat it like you are choosing a neurosurgeon to excise a tumour from your brain.” Therefore, like choosing the right teacher for a yoga retreat, it is prudent to find out more about who is holding the space during an Ayahuasca ceremony.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew made from a blend of a vine found in the Amazon rainforest called ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) and a shrub called chacruna (Psychotria Viridis). It contains a substance called DMT (dimethyltryptamine) that can induce a hallucinogenic, deeply spiritual experience. This entheogen has long been used in religious ceremonies and healing practices in Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Ecuador and is becoming increasingly popular as a natural way to treat anxiety, depression, addictions, heal past trauma and treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
The author, Michael Pollan states in his book ‘How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
“You go deep enough or far out enough in consciousness and you will bump into the sacred. It’s not something we generate; it’s something out there waiting to be discovered. And this reliably happens to nonbelievers as well as believers.”
What is the legal status of Ayahuasca Retreats in Europe?
The legality of ayahuasca in Europe varies(and changes), depending on the country in question. Much of Europe allow its use when the plant is consumed as part of a religious ceremony, although this can be a grey area. It is fully legal in Italy, Portugal and Romania, and in Spain, it can be used in certain contexts but cannot be sold to the public. The best way to hear about ayahuasca ceremonies is word of mouth, however, some retreats do share information online (see our listings below). If you do plan to attend a ceremony in a country where ayahuasca use is restricted or prohibited, you should be as discreet as possible.
Ayahuasca Retreats Netherlands / Holland
As of Sept 2019 – Ayahuasca has been made illegal in Holland – so please check with the organisers whether their retreats are in Holland or at another venue.
Offering both 4- and 5-day retreats and private ceremonies in a gorgeous Dutch farmhouse, you will find the therapeutic retreat you need here. The team has over 30 years of experience and an authentic Peruvian shaman to guide your traditional plant medicine ceremony.
3 Day Retreat: €1,050
4 Day Retreat: €1,250
5 Day Retreat: €1,450
Founder, Maria Johanna broke free from negative patterns and behaviours thanks to ayahuasca and she’s here to help you do the same. In her safe, intimate retreats just 20 minutes from Amsterdam airport and near the water, it’s a great ayahuasca retreat in Europe for those based in the UK.
With Om Mij, you get full support and loving guidance from a trained team of experts. This makes it perfect for those working through trauma and looking for a deeply spiritual experience. Retreats in Holland, Spain and Portugal. Established reputation.
Innerlijke Reis wants to help connect you with your inner wisdom and find enlightenment through a deeply moving ayahuasca ceremony. With a team of guides who offer extra skills like a chakra foot massage, breath support or tuning fork healing plus a network of doctors, psychologists and coaches, you know you’re in great hands.
Ayahuasca Retreats Spain / Italy
Hermano Sis offers psycho-spiritual growth retreats which combine Native Amazonian healing ceremonies, humanistic psychology practices and integration to create a well-rounded, highly therapeutic plant ceremony in Spain.
An easy hop by plane from the UK, this ayahuasca retreat in Europe is perfect for those who are looking for gentle healing in safe and loving surroundings. Conducted one on one and in microdoses, this therapist-led session is sure to help you break through limitations and trauma and find your true path.
If you’re looking for a natural, intimate experience, Amoraleza provides the perfect opportunity. Running retreats between April and September, you can choose between shorter 3-day yurt experiences or large geo-dome sessions.
The Fasting Path offers spiritual plant ceremonies in Valencia, Spain. You’ll enjoy the experience in an off-grid eco-community with the 3-day immersion starting on Friday and ending on Monday evening. Offering a range of additional services and the option to extend your stay, this intimate retreat could be the healing solution you are looking for.
Ayahuasca Retreats Portugal
Tucked in the gorgeous forests of Coimbra, Portugal, this ayahuasca retreat in Europe will provide a deeply authentic experience that goes beyond many of the others on this list.
They include purge ceremonies, integration exercises and therapeutic activities in addition to the ayahuasca ceremony itself. They have a signature 23-day Ayahuasca retreat
Ayahuasca Retreats Ireland
Ayahuasca and ayahuasca ceremonies are currently illegal in Ireland, however, it is more of a grey area than in the UK and it seems to be tolerated by the authorities. The list below is the organisations that we are currently aware of that operate in Ireland.
Ayahuasca English, Inner Mastery, and European School of Ayahuasca (this organisation has very mixed reviews)
Ayahuasca Retreats UK
Ayahuasca and ayahuasca ceremonies are currently illegal in the UK. This is because the plant contains DMT which is considered to be a Class A Drug and illegal to distribute or process. There are Ayahuasca Retreats happening in the UK, however, it is an underground scene and if you’re interested in attending an ayahuasca retreat or ceremony in the UK, it’s best to find one via word of mouth or choose an ayahuasca retreat in Europe instead.
Ayahuasca Retreats – Other
1. How do you prepare for a ceremony?
The best way to ensure that you have a positive and deeply transformative experience with ayahuasca is to take time to prepare for the ceremony beforehand. Below is some information about how to prepare and what to expect, but for more extensive preparations, the books listed in this section are recommended. For the month before your retreat, take care of your mind, body and spirit in every way by:
- Get out into nature as much as you can and get plenty of physical exercises
- Make sleep a priority
- Drink plenty of water and eat as clean as possible
- Develop a meditation or yoga practise to help you look inwards
You should also avoid cannabis for 24-48 hours before the ceremony if possible. If you are taking prescription medications, please inform the retreat and ask for guidance especially anti-depressants. Taking Ayahuasca with anti-depressants can lead to Serotonin Syndrome and can be fatal.
2. What is an Ayahuasca diet?
As part of the preparation process (see above), many retreat centres advise that you follow a specific diet before you have your ceremony. This helps you to get the maximum benefit from the experience and avoid vomiting as your body attempts to purge any ingested toxins from your body. This generally includes eating clean wherever possible, filling your diet with more fresh fruits and veggies, cutting processed foods and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugar. You should also reduce your consumption of red meat. For more guidance on specific recommendations, please ask your retreat centre.
3. What happens at an Ayahuasca ceremony?
When the ceremony takes place, you will be given a tea blend under the guidance of a Shaman. It has quite a distinctive flavour and you might notice a slight burning sensation as you swallow it down. It’s normal to feel apprehensive or excited at this stage. After around 30 minutes, you should start to notice an effect. Usually, you’ll notice an increase in body heat first. Your heart rate will increase, you’ll start to sweat, and you’ll notice that your thoughts are becoming more rapid and scattered. You might start to notice tingling feeling around your body and see colour or flashes of light which form into shapes. Eventually, you will pass into a trance-like state where your thoughts become clearer and you understand the visions and sounds being shown to you. However, it’s important to remember that the experience is different for everyone. The ceremony may also include alternate days with other healing plants such as San Pedro, Kambo or Hapè, which can have different effects, so it is best to check with the organiser.
4. Do you really need a shaman? What is his or her role?
Technically speaking, you could drink ayahuasca without a shaman present. However, if you do so, you could risk having a more challenging experience. The shaman plays an important role in the ceremony. He doesn’t only lead the ceremony by playing instruments, blowing sacred Mapacho smoke and singing his icaros. Their vast experience with ceremonies of this kind also allows them to judge the correct quantity of plant medicine, guide the experience of the group and know when it’s right to close the ceremony. Nowadays, there are some excellent Western as well as indigenous shamans around the Ayahuasca circuit.
5. What are the dangers of an Ayahuasca Retreat?
For most people, the ayahuasca experience is a positive and enlightening one that allows them to heal from trauma and discover their new path. However, the effects can vary dramatically from person to person. The most common unpleasant experience is vomiting which can be extreme and be accompanied by diarrhoea. However, it’s said that following an ayahuasca diet beforehand can greatly reduce this. The medicine can also interact with other drugs, especially antidepressants. So please seek professional advice before attending a ceremony and be honest and open with the facilitators. Those with heart conditions should also avoid attending a ceremony.
6. How do I integrate my experiences?