Psychedelic tourism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is nowhere on Earth where so many shaman serve such magical brews as they do in Peru. Since the start of this millennium, an increasing number of travellers have sought the magical ayahuasca experience, whether from simple curiosity or in search of ancient wisdom. These night-long shamanic healing rituals, with roots over 3500 years old, often involve the ingestion of psychotropic hallucinogens, and can produce a life-changing experience.

The San Pedro cactus, a mescaline-based plant common on the coast and in the mountains of Peru, brewed for hours, can produce very profound and extremely vivid out-of-body experiences. Seen as “sacred medicine” and a “teacher”, San Pedro has been used for millennia by priests and shaman to provide solutions to everything from physical sickness to broken-down relationships.

The ayahuasca vine, found in the rainforest, tends to provide an even stronger trip, notably when mixed with leaves in “jungle juice”. The typical setting for a session with an ayahuasquero, or jungle shaman, is to meet him at a rainforest lodge, usually a tambo (hut) on the edge of an Amazon tributary. The session starts at dusk in a small room or roofed platform. Shortly after sunset, the shaman offers his brew after blowing and smudging large billows of thick, tangy Amazon tobacco smoke over himself, his participants and, most importantly, the ayahuasca container. After giving each guest a bitter, small gourd-full, the scene settles down and soon the shaman begins to rattle, chant or drum.

The effects can be challenging – the drug’s purging qualities mean many people vomit, while the colourful visions may be spiritual, sexual or just plain terrifying – but most people, helped by the shaman’s guiding songs and vision, make it beyond this to a healing and ecstatic session. Many experience strange conversations or see loved ones from the past or present. The good vibes and endorphin-related elation continues into the next day. Watching dawn over the forest canopy with a river alive with fish and brimming with exotic birdlife is a cool way to start the rest of your life.

One-off sessions with a shaman are easy to arrange through lodges in Iquitos. Ayahuasca and San Pedro are legal in Peru, but both are strong hallucinogens and should be taken with a genuine shaman and treated with respect.

 

For hundreds more ultimate travel experiences, get Rough Guides' Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth

Book your trip with Rough Guides

Tailor-made travel planned by local experts

At Rough Guides, we understand that experienced travellers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track. That’s why we’ve partnered with local experts to help you plan and book tailor-made trips that are packed with personality and stimulating adventure - at all levels of comfort. If you love planning, but find arranging the logistics exhausting, you’re in the right place.

Learn Morechevron_right

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs