On the last Wednesday of every August, over 20,000 people descend on a little Spanish town to take part in La Tomatina – the world’s largest food fight. There are a number of theories about the origins of the festival ranging from the bizarre to the believable, but La Tomatina celebrates Spanish joie de vivre over and above everything else.
La Tomatina had been on Savi’s Bucket List for years now. So this August, the three of us (remember Sid from this post?) flew into Spain to attend this crazy festival. It’s just a day long, but WHAT a day it was!
Be warned – La Tomatina is definitely not for claustrophobes or the faint of heart. However if tomato slush, ripped t-shirts, and a ginormous street party sounds like your idea of fun, read on. We’ve put together a ten-part Guide to La Tomatina – following these simple steps will ensure a memorable day at this crazy food-fight.
Before we go on, we must warn you – you might never be able to look at a Bloody Mary again 😉
Right, let’s get started…….
#1 Where to Stay
The Tomatina Festival takes place in a tiny town called Buñol. The sleepy town has very few accommodation options. We suggest staying in Valencia. Valencia, one of the largest cities of Spain, has no shortage of hostels and hotels.
Moreover most after parties of The Tomatina Festival happen in Valencia.
#2 When to book
Thousands of people descend on this part of the world each year to take part in the world’s biggest food fight. It is the busiest time of the year for towns and villages around Bunol, so make sure you book your hotel well in advance.
Since 2013, La Tomatina has become a ticket-based event to prevent over-crowding. The ticket is €10, but the popularity of the event ensures tickets run out weeks in advance.
#3 What to Wear
One word – white. The whole festival is a sea of white. Make sure you wear clothes and shoes you are willing to discard. Rest assured, you will NOT be able to wear them again.
Try to wear trainers – slippers and flip-flops are no good.
Whites are everywhere to be seen at La Tomatina
You will HAVE to part with your clothes even if it makes you a sad bunny
Your shoes will have to go – unless you want to carry this mush back with you 😉
#4 Safety Gear
People come armed with swimming goggles, snorkelling masks, even gas masks to avoid getting hit by acidic tomatoes. But nothing (we mean NOTHING) can prevent tomatoes from coming and hitting you squarely in the face. So here’s our two cents – don’t bother with goggles or masks. They just block your vision and don’t do much else.
Don’t bother with safety gear unless it looks like this 😉
#5 How to waterproof your camera
You’ve travelled all the way to Spain to experience the Tomatina. You can’t go without capturing it for posterity. A camera is a must, don’t you think?
You can buy waterproof disposable cameras but we suggest waterproofing your old digicam. It’s easy to buy a generic waterproof case off Amazon or Ebay for a couple of pounds. Here’s the link to the one we bought for our digital camera. These cases are meant for underwater photography, so the risk of tomato juice bleeding onto your camera is minimal.
#6 What to carry
Here’s a short checklist of stuff you need to carry to La Tomatina
- A change of clothes and shoes – the residents of Bunol are out on the roads with buckets and hose-pipes to help participants clean up. Once you’ve ‘showered’ thus, you will need a set a clean clothes and shoes to change into.
- Alcohol – Chances are you will catch the 6 a.m. bus from Valencia to Bunol. Be warned – this is not the time to catch a nap. You might want to start downing serious amounts of sangria. It’s the only thing that makes being pelted with tomatoes of all shapes and sizes amusing – Huzzah inebriation 🙂
- Alternatively, you could travel to Bunol the night before and spend the night drinking and dancing on the streets of the little town. A full blown-street party starts in the wee hours of the morning.
- Eats – Make sure you have/pack a hearty breakfast before you leave for the Tomatina. Most shops in the town are closed and covered with plastic. The ones that are open have serpentine queues to boot. Either way, you’re not getting close to food for a while.
Here we have 2 adults demonstrating the side-effects of consuming too much sangria at 6 in the morning
#7 Where to check-in your bag
Once you’re in Bunol, you will be greeted by a queue long enough to stupefy the day-lights out of your excited self. It is the cloak-room queue. It’s depressing, it seriously is.
Don’t bother with it. Leaving and collecting your bag from the mighty cloakroom at La Tomatina is enough to suck the joy out of the festival. Instead take your belongings in the smallest possible waterproof backpack and just lug it along to the festival. You can even use it as a shield to protect yourself – SCORE! 🙂
#8 Enjoy the Madness
Now the fun part. Join the crowds as they walk towards the focal point of La Tomatina – a greased pole with a ham at top. Try to get as close to the pole as possible. Find yourself a good ‘fighting spot’ and wait for the fun to begin.
At 11 a.m. the gong goes off and trucks laden with tomatoes make their way onto the crowded streets. Minutes later, the Tomatina begins in real earnest. Residents pelt participants with tomatoes from their balconies, participants pelt other participants with tomatoes – soon the street is a riot of colour, albeit a slushy one.
Since the Tomatina is spread over a number of tiny little streets, it’s too easy to watch it from the sidelines. But you must battle the urge to duck tomatoes and get in there, where the action is. For the next one hour, you’ll find yourself throwing tomatoes at all and sundry, ducking direct hits, coating your friends in tomato juice, and having the time of your life 🙂
Bunol’s Residents, Trucks full of tomatoes, and participants at La Tomatina
Tomato-throwing madness at La Tomatina
Tomato-throwing madness at La Tomatina
#9 Cleaning up
At 12 p.m. the gong goes off and the fight ends. You will find yourself breathing a sigh of relief as the crowd begins to disperse. There are designated showers on site, but the queues are a mood killer. Enter the philanthropic residents of Bunol. They help the participants of La Tomatina clean up with hose-pipes and buckets full of water.
Get washed up and join the party on the streets of Bunol before heading back to Valencia in the evening.
The two of us at the end of the food fight
The Aftermath – crowds disperse
The residents of Bunol lend a helping hand
The resident DJ at La Tomatina
#10 The Afterparty
Once you’re back in Valencia, you could hop over to the Tomatina Afterparty and dance the night away.
But we have a feeling you might want to head straight back to the warm, comforting bed at your hotel. Count your bruises, swear off tomatoes for the rest of the year, and plonk off to sleep 🙂
That’s it. Hope you have fun at the Tomatina Festival. As always, drop us a comment if you need any more information 🙂
Have you been to the Tomatina? Is it on your bucket list as well?
If you need inspiration on what else to see in Spain on this trip, read our experiences from the best road trip in Spain !
34 thoughts on “Road trip in Spain: The Ultimate Guide to La Tomatina, Bunol”
Once again a great post . Love you guys . Keep travelling !!!!
Thanks Hem 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the posts we’ve written during September
I thought that the people of Buñol were the greatest. Figuring they’d be angry that brash foreigners descended upon their city every year, I braced myself to ignore them and party and drink my maceta of beer without meeting locals. Quite the opposite – Luisa gave us tea and hosed us down, a nice girl kept our bags for two euros and gave us goggles, and another family offered us a slice of watermelon for free. Buena gente…though I’m not rushing back to do the Tomatina again!
I couldn’t have agreed more. I thought the people of Bunol would be a tad surly, but they were nothing short of gracious.
I’m not going back to Tomatina anytime soon either 😉
Loved the Post , Loved each and every detail , From where to stay to buying the tickets to Where to clean up.
Dont know about the tomatina festival , But Spain Definately is in my wish list 🙂
Thank you for the amazingly detailed post.
Thanks a ton Sonal. You’re in the right place if Spain is on your wish list. I hope our posts on our Spanish road trip tempt you into flying to Spain soon 🙂
Love the post and all the details. It is def on my list now-most def!!!
It was such fun – totally worth the effort. Go for it, I say!!
partciparting in tomatina festival is lyk a dream dont knw when it will cm true..but thank you so much for all des info..u guys r awsm
Thanks Sasmita 🙂 I hope you get to participate in the Tomatina ASAP
Great post, guys! Full of all the right information – would I go? No! But it sure looks like a lot of fun 🙂
Thanks Sue. I probably wouldn’t go again either, but it was fun while it lasted 😉
Fun! I’ve wanted to do this and this post is chalk full of useful info about going!
Jennifer it’s good fun – you will definitely come back with lots of stories to tell 🙂
Fun, fun, fun – so much fun I can see in the photos. In Poland, when someone throw a tomato in your direction it’s perceived as something offensive and rude. And in Spain? Look at these smiley faces :). Hope to participate in tomato fight one day!!
I agree Agness. I’m sure it would be considered rude in most societies, but Spanish people seem to disagree. They sure know how to have fun 🙂
Loved the descriptive post. Felt like I was there getting pelted right along with you.
Hehe. Anams that was the intent – share the love, errr bruises 😉
Haha! I loved reading this post and looking at all the tomatoey photos! My brother did this a few years ago and its been on my bucketlist ever since… maybe next year! Love the tips too, especially on what to do with your bags – queuing up would be an anticipation killer for me, so donning a waterproof bag is definitely a requirement!
Shing it’s one helluva experience. I hope you make it there next year 🙂
Great post and a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to visit La Tomatina.
Thanks Marianne – just thought we’d put together a guide so others could learn from our mistakes 🙂
This is an awesome post, I’m planning to go this year. Do you think it’s better to organize everything yourself or go for one of those organized tour packages through busabout or someone?
Hey Cat – I think it’s best to organise things yourself but do book tickets on a bus to ferry you from Valencia to Bunol and back on the day of the Tomatina festival 🙂
Thanks so much for an amazing post! Wish I read it earlier as I already bought my entry ticket and transport to and from Valencia for €80! Feel like I’ve been trolled!! I’m sooo excited to be going and can’t wait to make some memories!
Yeah, don’t worry – just concentrate on enjoying when you are there – it’s tomorrow, isn’t it? Have a blast!
I am planning a trip this year and planning to go from Barcelona, its for 80euros, Wanted to check with you about keeping fresh clothes, where can i keep it? There is this website i stumbled upon this website “http://tomatina.es/en/” and they say we can leave bags with them.
What do you suggest?
Yes, you can keep your stuff in a storage space, however the queue is SUPER long. We ended up keeping our stuff in a small waterproof bag and taking it around with us. It was much better than first queueing to keep our stuff and then queueing again to collect it.
Have a great time in Bunól 🙂
I already found accommodation in Bunol for 2017 La Tomatina now looking for just the entry ticket for the festival. Most of the websites that I found on the internet was tour from Valencia or Madrid or Barcelona with after party. Where can I buy the 10 Euro entry ticket.
As mentioned in the article, we took the package which also gave us transfers from Valencia (without after party). If you follow the link we have stated, you can find options to buy the 10€ ticket.
Hey.. guys.. such an amazing article.. so helpful it is.. can you guys please help with a link to book the tickets? The above link is not working and there are so many sites to book tickets, I can’t identify the authentic site for the same.
Thank you Ekta. Yes it seems that company has changed its website or perhaps even its name. Your best bet would be to just google and check 🙂
Would you suggest booking a tour or going on my own? What is the process to know where the after parties are and how to enter one?
we went on our own. But booking a tour makes the process of attending and going to the after party slightly easier 🙂