If you’ve decided to spend your summer travelling around Spain, one thing you absolutely cannot miss is La Tomatina festival in Bunol. Whether you’re starting at Valencia, Barcelona or the Costa del Sol, it’s easy enough to find a bus to Bunol, or if you prefer the freedom, why not hire a car to get you there in comfort?
La Tomatina is a food fight festival on the last Wednesday of August (this year, the 28th) in the tiny town of Bunol, where tens of thousands of people congregate to engage in a mass-scale tomato flinging frenzy. However, aside from the food fight itself, the rest of the week comprises music, dancing and grand firework displays, along with a fast and furious paella cooking competition on the night before the fight.
If you wanted to see Bunol at its attractive best, don’t come during this festival. Shopkeepers use giant plastic sheets to cover their shop fronts to avoid getting stained with tomato juice, so don’t expect to be admiring much of the town’s architecture.
On the morning of the 28th, lots of trucks will empty out tonnes of tomatoes into the Plaza del Pueblo, and in a bizarre twist of tradition, the festival begins after someone has reached a prized ham atop a greased-up wooden pole. In practice, however, this can be tricky, and people often become impatient and start the tomato throwing whether or not the ham has been retrieved. Water cannons signal the beginning of the fight, and the gathered crowds embark on a mission of relentless food flinging.
If you’re planning on heading along, it’s essential that you wear clothes you won’t mind getting soaked with tomato juice. It’s often advised that people wear goggles to protect their eyes against rogue tomatoes, and if you’re particularly fond of your hair, pile it under a hat so it escapes most of the fight. For safety reasons, it is requested that all fighters squash the tomatoes before they throw them, as some may be under-ripe and likely to hurt someone.
At the end of the brawl, the water cannons will fire once again to say that the throwing must stop. Fire trucks will then arrive to blast the tomato residue off the streets, with some residents offering to hose down sticky, sodden revelers themselves.
A word of warning: don’t bring an expensive camera as it will most likely be drenched in tomato juice which can cause irreparable damage, so if you must take photos, a waterproof disposable camera is your best bet. Also, wear sensible, sturdy shoes, as flip flops or flimsy sandals will likely get lost in the crowd. There is also an after party which can get pretty rowdy, so keep your wits about you to avoid the pickpockets who frequent the busy event.
La Tomatina is great fun, and definitely an event you’ll talk about in years to come. Unleash your inner child and let the food fight commence!