Last updated: October 2022 // Feature image: courtesy of Ayahuasca Foundation
It’s no secret there’s been a recent renaissance of curiosity and intrigue into the transformative world of psychedelics: a class of psychoactive substances, many plant-based although some lab-based, that can alter mood, perception and numerous cognitive processes. Also known as hallucinogens or entheogens, you might know such psychedelics as magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, peyote, ecstasy, Special K or LSD. While many associate these substances with nothing more than a wild, mind-bending trip, clinical studies have shown the use of psychedelics can have powerful healing effects on everything from anxiety and depression to drug and alcohol addiction, OCD, PTSD and even traumatic brain injury.
A rollercoaster ride of legalities has seen the field flourishing in the 1950s, banned altogether in the 1970s and finally, making a slow resurgence in the early 2000s. Fast forward to today’s post-pandemic climate – one of paradigm shifts in careers, population distribution and wellness, including a growing mental health crisis – and it’s no wonder the world of psychedelics has effectively propelled from underground to mainstream.
It seems everyone’s buzzing over the far-out field, from clinical researchers and mental health professionals to psychedelic novices and psychonauts alike – not to mention federal and state-level policymakers. Even Hollywood’s in on the action between Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab magic mushroom trip and Nicole Kidman’s turn as a mysterious wellness retreat leader in 9 Perfect Strangers. UC Berkeley Journalism Professor Michael Pollen’s 2018 book How to Change Your Mind – exploring the science of psychedelics in treating mental illness – has even been turned into a four-part, eponymous docuseries airing now on Netflix.
In the U.S. alone, Data Bridge Market Research projects the psychedelic market to grow from 2.8 million in 2021 to 9.8 million by 2029. Unsurprising as psychedelics have recently been decriminalized in a growing number of U.S. cities and states. Seattle, Denver, Oakland, Washington, D.C. and the state of Oregon are among the early pioneers. As progress continues to gain momentum Stateside, some psychedelics are already legal – albeit oftentimes under medical or religious contexts only – in countries like Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil and the Netherlands. And here, a growing number of psychedelic wellness retreats are meeting newfound consumer demand for not just mind-expanding but potentially life-transforming experiences.
For those looking to experience this new frontier of healing, therapy and exploration, a psychedelic wellness retreat is a viable option. Most retreats run 1-2 weeks in length, offering an all-inclusive experience complete with accommodations, healthy meals, guided psychedelic ceremonies, supporting mind-body activities like yoga, meditation and breathwork, even spa treatments and day trips to nearby sights of interest. Psychedelics offered at such retreats can run the gamut from plant to fungi to animal to lab-based, although the two most prominent appear to be psilocybin (a.k.a. magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca (a powerful plant medicine from the Amazon).
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up a carefully curated list of destinations offering these two substances in legal, controlled and guided settings. From microdosing in Mexico to ancient ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon, here are 7 psychedelic wellness retreats around the world offering the trip of a lifetime.
Disclosure: The information in this article is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be taken as nor substituted for medical and/or psychological advice. Always consult with your own medical and/or psychological team prior to undergoing any psychedelic treatment. It is your responsibility to understand the risks and verify that any psychedelic experience you choose to participate in is held in a legal, safe and controlled setting and is administered under the care of a vetted medical team with proper training and oversight.
PSILOCYBIN WELLNESS RETREATS
Also known as magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms.
According to the UC Berekely Center for the Science of Psychedelics, “Psilocybin is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in more than one hundred mushroom species. It is usually consumed orally by eating either dried or fresh mushrooms, adding them to food or tea, or by taking a capsule of its dried material. It usually takes under an hour for the psychedelic effects to become noticeable, and the experience usually peaks one to three hours later. The entire trip can last six to eight hours.”
On Jamaica’s southwest coast you’ll find the sleepy fishing village of Treasure Beach, and here, the psilocybin-assisted retreat center of MycoMeditations. Over the course of 7 days, guests receive three high-dose psilocybin sessions alongside private and group therapy. All treatments are administered by experienced medical health professionals including licensed therapists, psychiatrists and nurses, offering an impactful process that is safe, legal and evidence-based. The all-inclusive healing experience further includes farm-to-table meals, massage sessions, and roundtrip airport transfers, plus ongoing connection and support via a vast network of psychedelic integration therapists post-retreat. Guest results, reported in conjunction with a study held by the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, include increased feelings of connectedness, reductions in depressive symptoms and improvements in overall psychological well-being.
MycoMeditations retreats start at $4300 per person for the “Classic Retreat” held in an intimate guesthouse up to $6400 per person for the “Comfort Retreat” held in spacious villas.
In the Netherlands, Synthesis has managed to bypass the country’s psychedelic mushroom ban by offering a similar kind of psychoactive fungi: truffles. These legal loophole-approved organisms are harvested at an earlier stage of development vs. mushrooms, yet still contain powerful doses of transformational psilocybin. Located on an idyllic estate between Amsterdam and Utrecht, the healing retreat’s 5-day Expansion program offers a safe space to awaken expanded forms of consciousness underscored by science-based data. In addition to two psilocybin truffle ceremonies administered by seasoned psychedelic facilitators, guests are privy to guided meditation and breathwork, group workshops and one-on-one facilitation meetings. Plus, dedicated pre-retreat online preparation sessions and post-retreat integration support. Alongside contemporary accommodations at Center Venwoude, participants can enjoy freshly prepared organic cuisine, an on-site sauna, beautifully manicured gardens and even a pond that’s home to a protected colony of dragonflies.
Each Synthesis retreat is limited to just 21 carefully screened participants, running $6,497 per person for remaining 2022 dates.
The Buena Vida Psilocybin Retreats: Mexico
These roving pop-up retreats take place in different locations throughout Mexico, offering a 3-tiered approach to accommodate varying participant goals and budgets. All tiers include 2-3 psilocybin mushroom ceremonies, chef-prepared meals, movement workshops, sound meditations and a 7-day pre-retreat prep course, while others level up with luxury oceanfront accommodations, day trips, massages, 2-week integration periods and smaller group sizes. All retreats consist of a 4:1 ratio of participants to facilitators. Buena Vida Retreats are legal, safe and female-led by Founder & Psychedelic Guide Amanda Schendel, backed by a team of credentialed scientific advisors. The resulting judgement-free space utilizes a caring, light-hearted approach to help guests experience serious, deep healing.
Remaining 2022 retreats are set to take place in Sayulita along Mexico’s Pacific coastline as well as Tulum in the Mexican Caribbean. Pricing ranges from $3,333 – $14,444 per person depending on retreat tier.
Dimensions Retreats: Canada / Jamaica
The concepts of all-inclusive and exclusive blend seamlessly at Dimensions: a Canada-based plant-medicine collective effectively setting the standard for luxury psychedelic experiences. At the flagship Dimensions Algonquin Highlands in Ontario, contemporary lakefront cabins and soaring forest surrounds offer a tranquil setting for deep, immersive transformation. In accordance with local regulations, administered plant medicines include cannabis, cacao and psilocybin – the latter only to guests who have received approval by Health Canada’s Schedule 56 exemptions and Special Access Programs. Supporting activities include yoga, acupuncture, Reiki, cranial sacral therapy, sound therapy and deep-tissue massage, plus daily chef-designed menus and ongoing integration post-retreat. The 45-acre healing sanctuary is set to start hosting private groups in July 2022, with plans to unveil a complete suite of programs by 2023.
At Dimensions Jamaica, impactful renewal begins at Good Hope Estate: a 2,000-acre historical property near Montego Bay boasting hills, valleys and even a river running through it. Plus, luxurious private suites in the estate’s Great House. The majestic mountaintop location sets the stage for legal psilocybin ceremonies, psychoeducation and supporting mind-body practices, not to mention spa services and organic meals prepared daily. Guided preparation starting 4 weeks prior and post-retreat 6-week integration ensure a fully supported experience. Two retreats are planned for fall/winter 2022, running $8500 per person.
AYAHAUSCA WELLNESS RETREATS
Also known as caapi, yagé, yajé, chacruna, hoasca.
According to the UC Berekely Center for the Science of Psychedelics, “Ayahuasca is the Quechua name for a vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and also for a brew made by combining the vine with leaves of plants, usually the Amazonian shrub Psychotria viridis, which contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). This tea has been used for over a thousand years by Indigenous people in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador in shamanic practices and to help with the diagnosis or treatment of various medical, psychological, or spiritual conditions.”
Ayahuasca Foundation: Peru
The gateway to the Amazon, Peruvian port city Iquitos may as well be ground zero for ayahuasca. So it comes as no surprise that one of the world’s leading ayahuasca retreat centers is located right here. Situated in the midst of a national jungle reserve that happens to be home to 30-year old ayahuasca vines, Ayahuasca Foundation has been a pioneer in yajé healing and education since 2008. The foundation offers 10 and 18-day legal, immersive ayahuasca retreats to up to 12 participants each, working only with indigenous Shipibo curanderos (shamans) with a rooted family lineage in the practice. Retreats offer powerful healing potential with 5+ ayahuasca ceremonies each, plus supporting plant medicine treatments such as vapor baths, smoke baths, inhalants and cleanses. Additional mind-body healing practices include yoga, meditation, breathwork, massage and counseling. Participants stay at the Riosbo Ayahuasca Retreat & Research Center, featuring comfortable private rooms with en-suite bathrooms, full electricity, hot and cold water and balconies with majestic river views. Recreational activities like hiking, swimming, fishing and plant walks with certified conservation guides further enhance the transformational experience.
Retreats at Ayahuasca Foundation are offered at $2,450 per person (10 days) or $3,650 per person (18 days). 2022 dates are already completely sold out as are many in 2023. If you want to secure your spot here, you better act fast.
Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreat Center: Brazil
This healing sanctuary was co-founded in 2004 by Silvia Polivoy, Ph.D., a clinical psycologist-turned-spiritual practitioner who’s been studying modified states of consciousness for over twenty-five years. Residing in the richly diverse Mata-Atlantic forest on the east coast of Brazil, Spirit Vine operates as a non-profit and trans-denominational interfaith ayahuasca center guiding participants toward powerful reawakening. Monthly retreats are offered as either 9 or 11-day experiences, all including 4+ legal, home-grown ayahuasca ceremonies led by Polivoy. Guests can participate in a number of supporting activities like guided meditations, yoga, art classes, one-on-one counseling and various mind-body workshops, plus enjoy balanced vegetarian and vegan meals. Off-site excursions to nearby beaches and waterfalls can be arranged for an additional charge. Comfortable bungalows act as a tranquil refuge for healing, boasting panoramic jungle views, floral garden surrounds, hammock-equipped balconies and proximity to the on-site swimming pond. Most are shared by 2-3 guests, although private bungalows may be accommodated upon inquiring.
Spirit Vina Ayahuasca Retreats start at $2250 per person (9 days) and $2550 per person (11 days).
Soltara Healing Center: Costa Rica / Peru
Named after the Spanish verb “soltar,” which means to let go or release, Soltara Healing Center offers empowering ayahuasca retreats under the guidance of both clinical psychologists as well as indigenous Peruvian Shipibo healers. In Costa Rica, Soltara offers two locations: Sugar Beach, just steps from the sparkling Pacific shoreline and Playa Blanca, tucked into secluded seaside cliffs. Both are situated along the Nicoya Peninsula, which happens to be one of only five blue zones in the world. In Peru, Soltara resides within the Amazonian cloud forest of Cordillera Escalera National Park, an ecological conservation zone bordering the Amazon rainforest and Andes mountains. All three locations provide safe and supportive spaces for a deep dive into transformational healing, offering 5, 7 and 12-night retreat options. In addition to Shipibo-guided ayahuasca ceremonies guests are further supported with yoga, meditation, breathwork and art therapies, plus locally-sourced meals from organic farms and sustainable fisherman.
Soltara all-inclusive retreats start at $1,875 per person in Peru, $3,125 per person in Playa Blanca and $4,000 per person in Sugar Beach.
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