Spanish festivals la tomatina: A guide to Spain’s La Tomatina festival – Lonely Planet

A guide to Spain’s La Tomatina festival – Lonely Planet

The last Wednesday in August marks Spain’s messiest festival. Held in Buñol, 40km west of Valencia, La Tomatina is a tomato-throwing spectacle that draws more than 20,000 revellers each year. If you’re planning on becoming part of the human passata, this article has all the information you need to squeeze the most out of this chaotic celebration.

Editor’s note: the 2021 edition of La Tomatina is cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The festival is set to return in August 2022.

What happens during La Tomatina?

The mayhem takes place in Buñol’s main square and Calle del Cid. At around 9am a large greased pole with a ham attached to the end of it is hoisted into the air, and there’s a mad scramble as people struggle against each other to pull it down. At precisely 11am, regardless of whether someone has successfully grabbed the ham (which is rare), a cannon is fired and over 120 tonnes of ripe, squishy tomatoes are tipped from trucks to the waiting crowd. For the next hour, everyone joins in a frenzied, cheerful, anarchic tomato battle until a second cannon fire signals the end of play. Then it’s a mad dash for the closest local wielding a garden hose.

The history of La Tomatina is about as clear as what’s going on here © JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Getty Images

The history of La Tomatina

The crazy food-fighting festival of La Tomatina began in 1945, but it’s not known why. Locals have numerous theories, including the popular tale of disgruntled townsfolk attacking city councilmen during a town celebration. However, it could also be attributed to anything from an anti-Franco protest or simply a fun food fight between friends. Whichever way it started, the townsfolk of Buñol enjoyed it so much that it was repeated year after year, finally becoming an officially recognised celebration in 1952. Despite being canned briefly during the 1970s for having no religious significance, it has returned full-throttle every year.

The festival is now held in honour of the town’s patron saint, St Louis Bertrand, and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenceless).

La Tomatina is surely the messiest festival in the world © JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Getty Images

How to get involved

There are several ways to join the mayhem. Most people just come for the day, arriving on the morning train from Valencia and heading back in the afternoon. But if you want the full La Tomatina experience, stay in Buñol for the week-long celebration, which involves music, dancing, parades and fireworks. The night before the fight, a paella cooking competition is held where women traditionally dress in white, and men forego shirts altogether.

Often more convenient – and surprisingly affordable – is joining a tour. Dozens of companies offer everything from transport and entrance tickets to week-long extravaganzas. Among the best is Busabout, which offers a three-day day package including accommodation, return coach transfers, entrance ticket, merchandise, additional activities including an after-party, and, comfortingly – safety in numbers.

How much does it cost to take part?

Participation costs €10; if you want to pour the tomatoes off the truck you’ll have to fork out €750.

Top tip: wear goggles to protect your eyes at La Tomatina © JOSE JORDAN / AFP / Getty Images

Top tips for La Tomatina festival

  • If you’re making your own way the festival, try to purchase your ticket in advance from the festival’s website – they tend to sell out online weeks prior to the event, but you can often grab last-minute tickets from touts in Valencia if you want to chance it.
  • Accommodation in Buñol generally books out in advance, as well as hostels in Valencia. You might find a last-minute bed somewhere in town, but it’s best to get your accommodation sorted as soon as possible to avoid stress.
  • If you’re catching the train from Valencia, try to get to the station for 6.30am. If you get the 7am train, you’ll be in Buñol for 7.45am and at the scene of the fight just after 8am. The crowds at this point are only just starting to gather, so you can get a good vantage point for the ham-on-the-pole. If you arrive any later, you’ll struggle to get close to the action. And you do not want to miss the ham-on-the-pole! Right!?
  • Plan your outfit – wear old clothes and shoes and consider bringing a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. A change of clothes is a good idea – you won’t be allowed on most buses back to Valencia if you’re covered in pulp.
  • What you don’t bring to La Tomatina is also important. The crazed tomato-throwers take no prisoners; cameras are seen as positive invitations to pelt the owner.
  • Ensure tomatoes are squashed before you throw them to avoid injuring someone. But be warned that others wont always be so kind.
  • For more info, check out the La Tomatina website.

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This article was first published in June 2015, and last updated in August 2021.

La Tomatina Festival of Tomato Fights in Bunyol (Valencia)

La Tomatina tomato fight in Buñol near Valencia happens every year on the last Wednesday in August though the partying starts earlier in the week. The highlight of the festival is the tomato fight which takes place between 11am and 1pm on that day. The event has become one of the highlights on Spain’s summer festivals calendar with thousands of people flocking to this little Valencian town for this chaotic event.

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Such are the numbers going to La Tomatina that the event has become a victim of its own success. The sheer number of people means that it’s extremely difficult to get anywhere near the central area where the tomato lorries arrive so you may well find yourself a few streets away from the main action. Never mind, there are plenty people in the same boat and the street partying goes on no matter where you are.

History of La Tomatina

The origins of La Tomatina aren’t clear with several theories explaining how Bunyol has become home to the world’s biggest tomato fight. However, the most plausible suggests that the most likely explanation dates back to 1945 when an annual parade of enormous figures with big heads (Gigantes y Cabezudos) was passing through the streets of Bunyol. It seems that some youngsters tried to join in the parade and accidentally knocked over one of the giants who got to his feet and started swinging out at everyone around him. In retaliation the youngsters grabbed some tomatoes from a nearby vegetable stall and started throwing them at him until the police arrived to break things up.

The following year on the same last Wednesday of August these young people returned to the town hall square and started another tomato fight using their own tomatoes. Again the police intervened and in subsequent years the local council tried to ban the ‘El Día de la Tomatina’ but with little success as the event continued to grow year after year reaching the ludicrous size it is today.

Tomatina Festival: Practical Information

Getting to Bunyol

Most young visitors book cheap accommodation in Valencia then take the train to Bunyol for the day. On the morning of the festival there are trains from Valencia Central Station, which is about 40km away, at eight minutes past the hour (check at just in case this has changed). There is no need to book tickets in advance and the journey takes 50 minutes. The actual tomato fight lasts little over an hour beginning at midday and continuing until shortly after 1pm. So the 8.08am, 9.08am or 10.08 trains will get you there in plenty time. The earlier the better as the trains do get full. Alternatively, you can arrive by local bus or rent a car though this might not be a great idea considering the mess you’re likely to be in after the tomato battle.

Where to Stay in Bunyol

Bunyol is a small village of some 9000 people whose population swells to some 30,000 on the day of La Tomatina. The Hotel Condes de Buñol is a nice little hotel in the town centre but there is hardly any accommodation in the immediate area so most budget visitors stay in a budget hostel or hotel in Valencia but you’ll need to book well in advance.

Another option is to head for the small family-run campsite called La Granjita in Chiva which is only 10km north-east of Bunyol. The owners provide you with the tent, bed, sheets, towels as well as breakfast and an evening meal if you want it. It also has a small pool which is so inviting once you get back from the fiesta.

What to Wear at La Tomatina

Whatever you wear is going to get destroyed so make sure you take a change of clothes for the return train journey. We actually found that a snorkel and mask were well worth taking! Afterwards you can try to clean up a little at the public showers near the river but these are generally packed.

Tomatina Tickets

Until a few years ago the numbers visiting the Tomatina festival were large but manageable. However, in recent times the event has become a victim of its own success with upwards of 50,000 people trying to cram themselves into this small Valencian town which has inevitably caused security concerns. As a result the town council of Bunyol have been forced to limit numbers by issuing tickets to those wishing to take part. Tickets cost €10 each and can be reserved and printed out on the Bunyol Town Council website. Alternatively, you can book an organised tour to La Tomatina with numerous companies who will include tickets in their package.

Rules of La Tomatina

In spite of the mayhem there actually are a few rules and regulations that need to be adhered to during La Tomatina in order to ensure that the maximum number of people get the maximum enjoyment from the day. These rules are set out by the Bunyol Town Council:

  • It is illegal to bring any kind of bottles or other objects that could cause an accident.
  • You must not tear t-shirts.
  • Tomatoes must be crushed before throwing so that they don’t hurt anybody.
  • You must be careful to avoid the lorries which carry the tomatoes.
  • As soon as you hear the 2nd banger you must stop throwing tomatoes.

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Tomatina Festival in Valencia

The annual popular La Tomatina festival, held in the last week of August in the town of Bunol, in the Spanish province of Valencia, gathers several tens of thousands of participants. All of them come here specifically to participate in this celebration of life and the specific “tomato” battle inherent only to this festival.

The history of the La Tomatina festival

The La Tomatina festival dates back to 1945, it started with a brawl of young people at the local market, when tomato “shells” were used as weighty arguments. The townspeople liked the merry fun, and the next year the battle was repeated, and then it turned into a tradition and received the official status of the Festival.

The festival itself lasts for a week, it is very fun, colorful and festive: festive parades, fairs, competitions, fireworks, fireworks, dances in city squares continue until the morning. The final stage of the festival is the tomato fight. More than 100 tons of tomatoes are used in this crazy destruction of tomatoes, more than 40 thousand people take part in it, and the owners of shops, shops, residents of the first floors close the windows in advance with thick shields to save them from destruction.

The main events of “La Tomatina” unfold at 10 am local time – many trucks loaded with ripe tomatoes arrive at the main city square, Plaza del Pueblo. To do this, the organizers of the festival specifically buy them in neighboring provinces. According to the rules, only previously crushed tomatoes can be thrown. Do not bring bottles and other traumatic objects with you to avoid causing serious injury.

Tomato Madness

The apogee of the holiday comes after some daredevil reaches the top of a smooth wooden pole, smeared with soap, and receives his reward – a pork ham, which lies at the top. The signal for tomato madness is the shot of tomatoes from water cannons – the bacchanalia lasts exactly an hour, after which the second shot serves as a signal for the end of the battle.

The goal of each participant is to smear as many people as possible with tomato “bombs”, try to dodge the “projectiles” himself and stay clean as long as possible. Many use diving goggles to protect their eyes, often such participants at the end of the battle are quite a fantastic and very funny sight.

As a result of the battle, tomato slurry on the streets reaches the ankles, the walls of buildings, like the participants in the battle, turn red from tomato juice. Teams of fire trucks leave to clear the streets of this disgrace – they wash the walls, asphalt from hoses, and the participants in the battle are washed by local residents, pouring water from hoses, others are washed in the river, showers are installed throughout the city. A few hours later, there is no trace of the former bacchanalia, except for the high spirits of its participants, which persists for a long time.

The La Tomatina festival flows into festivities dedicated to Buñol’s patrons: Our Lady of All the Dispossessed and Saint Luis Bertrand, which take place on the same scale as the tomato fights.

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from Valencia, scarlet rivers overflow. No, there is no need to be afraid – no one is killed there. For more than 60 years now, Bunyol has been hosting the annual La Tomatina festival, which has been included in the list of the most unusual holidays in the world. So the Spaniards, throwing tomatoes at each other, unconventionally and cheerfully see off the summer.

The history of this enchanting event dates back to 1945. Then, during the festival in honor of the patron saint of the city, St. Louis Bertrand and Our Lady of Protector, a skirmish broke out between the participants, which immediately turned into throwing tomatoes at each other taken from a street stall. The spectacle turned out to be so spectacular that the Spaniards decided to turn such a fight into a good tradition.

In 1947, the authorities of the Franco regime, trying to strengthen the moral foundations of society, banned the holiday. However, in protest, the population of the town organized a “Tomato Funeral”. The mourning melodies turned out to be even less to the taste of the authorities, and the holiday was allowed again, and the whole story only fueled interest in it.

So, on the last Wednesday of the last summer month, tourists and visitors from all over the world flock to tiny Bunol, whose population does not exceed 9 thousand people. From 10 am, having had a hearty breakfast and warmed up with local wine, people begin to flock to the central square of Plaza del Pueblo. The explosion of a firecracker launched from the town hall is a signal for the beginning of the massacre – trucks with “ammunition” are being pulled up to the square. Trucks turn tomatoes out onto the crowd. People grab vegetables in their hands and start throwing them at each other. In a matter of minutes, the streets are filled with tomato pulp.

Before throwing a tomato, it must be crushed in the hand. After all, even an overripe vegetable is capable of inflicting quite a sensitive blow. Experienced participants of “La Tomatina” come to the battle in swimming goggles – getting a large tomato in the eye is not particularly pleasant. Is it worth clarifying that it is not recommended to dress up and make up for this holiday?

The battle lasts about 2 hours. It ends, as a rule, with wild dances in a tomato mess and swimming in a pool with tomato juice. At this time, most cafes, bars and restaurants in the city do not work. And establishments located near the battlefield close windows and doors with special plastic curtains.

After the battle is over, the area is cleaned up and the combatants are given the opportunity to clean up with portable showers and fire hydrants. Yes, and the locals do not leave the “warriors” in trouble and rush to them with buckets and hoses.

Well, the festival lasts a few more days. And, like all Spanish holidays, it is very noisy and fun – with dancing, delicious treats, games and prizes. For example, in 2011, 120 tons of overripe tomatoes were brought to the city for the Tomatina holiday, and about 40 thousand people from all over the world took part in the battle.

In 2002 the festival received the title of international.
What is the secret of the popularity of this, to put it mildly, non-trivial holiday? Apparently, every person sometimes wants, as they say, to let off steam, fool around, shout, throw food, like in kindergarten, without fear of being branded crazy or getting into the police. The Spanish holiday “La Tomatina” provides everyone with a unique opportunity to return to a carefree childhood for a couple of hours.


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