Ayahuasca sessions, or psychedelic tourism, have become a booming business in Iquitos. Ayahuasca is a jungle vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) that grows in the Western Amazon region and has been used for thousands of years as a “teacher plant”, gaining a worldwide reputation for divination, inspiration and healing of physical, emotional and spiritual ailments (see San Pedro). The vine is generally mixed with other jungle plants to enhance its powers and transform it into a bitter-tasting hallucinogenic brew, usually taken in a public session with a shaman.
The Temple of the Way of Light (templeofthewayoflight.org), out beyind Iquitos airport, has a good reputation for combining ayahuasca ceremonies with charitable and environmental work. There are also some well-known local ayahuasca guides, including Francisco Montes (Sachamama, 18km from Iquitos on the road to Nauta; try asking for him in hotels or the tourist office), who offers very traditional ceremonies with all the comforts of a lodge. Another popular shaman is Agustín Rivas, a famous sculptor who has dedicated over thirty years to working with ayahuasca; his sessions are run through Yushintayta Lodge on the Río Tamshiyacu, contactable via the Hostal La Pascana, Pevas 133 (065 231418). In addition, many if not most of the jungle lodges and camps around Iquitos regularly organize ayahuasca sessions.
This sacred business is currently not regulated at all and, given the extremely sensitive states of mind achieved by ingesting ayahuasca (which can be much more powerful than LSD), it’s important not only to feel comfortable with the scene and setting, but also with the person leading it.