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Should you ever find yourself in Peru, be sure to visit the Belén market in Iquitos. This market actually has an entire section for psychonauts and shamans, also called Shaman's Alley. Here you can find all kinds of traditional herbs, plants and medicines used for spiritual purposes, healing rituals or simply a solid trip. One of the most famous and fascinating substances for sale at the Belén market in Iquitos is ready-made Ayahuasca: one of the strongest trip drugs under the sun. Not only can you just buy 'Aya' here, it is also spot on. If the various travel reports from trip enthusiasts who have visited the market are to be believed....

But what exactly is Ayahuasca, and how wise is it to buy it ready-made from a local market? Above all, read this article before you book a single ticket to Peru.

What does Ayahuasca do?

Ayahuasca is an incredibly powerful trip drug that originates from the Amazon region. Peru in particular is a hotspot for this psychoactive brew, made from a mixture of plants containing DMT and a natural MAO inhibitor. That MAO inhibitor is used to ensure that psychoactive substances are broken down much more slowly. Indeed, DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is a substance that works for a short time (15 to 30 minutes), and moreover only when you smoke it. In oral form, like Ayahuasca, it does nothing. If you add an MAOI and drink this brew, however, you can count on the trip of a lifetime - which, moreover, lasts for hours.


The effects of a good Ayahuasca trip are first and foremost very visual. Users experience the world quite differently and almost always much more colourful and sharp. You can also definitely see, hear and feel things that are not there in a sober state. From your (pre)parents to spiritual guides and beings from other worlds: they can all pay you a visit.


Traditionally, Ayahuasca is used for spiritual and healing purposes. A 'real' Aya ceremony takes place under the guidance of a shaman, who guides you through the trip talking, preaching and singing. Such ceremonies are seen as a way to gain deep insights, overcome inner blockages and heal emotional traumas. Don't be surprised if you or your ceremony mates cry or laugh uncontrollably. And know where to find the toilet and your vomit bucket; Ayahuasca can cause quite a stir. Literally and figuratively.

The Belén market in Iquitos, Peru

The Belén market in Iquitos, Peru can be found close to the famed Amazon rainforest, where Ayahuasca comes from. An entire section of that market is filled with powerful medicinal plants and trip remedies, from the San Pedro cactus to Yopo and Ayahuasca - ready-made. This part of the market is also called Mercato del Brujo - the market for witchcraft - by locals. Definitely a must-see when you are in the area!

Buying Ayahuasca yourself at the Belén market in Peru, then?

More and more tourists know how to find psychedelics at the Belén market. And so do the ready-made Ayahuasca concoctions offered for sale here. These mixes are often cheaper than attending a ceremony in the middle of the jungle, more accessible besides. But how wise is it to get started yourself with Mother Aya, as the brew is affectionately called?

The short answer won't surprise you: it's not exactly smart. Firstly, Ayahuasca is incredibly strong, and you lose sense of time, place and sometimes ego. Besides, such a ready-made drink is not easy to dose. Nor is the quality reliable. You have to make do with the Spanish-language instructions of the market people, and of course that still offers no guarantees. You are in a foreign country and thus an unfamiliar environment. That makes you hopelessly lost when the trip is more intense than you are comfortable with. Ayahuasca ceremonies are guided by experienced and trained shamans for a reason. They know how to make your trip an enriching experience – which is probably your goal of taking Ayahuasca.

Be sure to read up!

The last thing you want is to have to explain to your travel insurance company after a bad trip how you ended up in that situation. So go for the safe option. First of all, educate yourself on Ayahuasca and know what to expect. Also, do research on the ceremonies available in the region to choose the right one. And make sure you are in good shape before you start tripping. Both physically and mentally. Then you will have done everything possible to make a beautiful and educational trip possible. Leave the rest to Mother Nature!