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. You can book your tickets online at the official website, Spaintastic La Tomatina Tours . We opted for the €30 package that included a shuttle bus to and from Valencia.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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 🙂
#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.
#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 !