Turn yourself a lovely shade of red in the most fun way possible at Spain’s La Tomatina Festival.
If you’re reading this, I bet you have the popular La Tomatina Festival on your bucket list. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of the ultimate food fight.
How do I get to the festival?
The annual festival is held in the small town of Buñol on the last Wednesday of August each year. Buñol is located about 40km from Valencia on Spain’s south east coast.
There’s a couple of ways to get to La Tomatina. You can catch the train from Valencia to Buñol or you can sign up to an organised transport from Valencia, Barcelona or Madrid.
From Valencia, transport to and from the event, a T-Shirt, your ticket and a guide costs $A50. The buses leave from Valencia between 8am and 9am and return around 3pm. You can buy tickets online at https://www.tomatina.es/en
There’s also packages that include accommodation in a hostel dorm.
What should I bring?
All you need is your festival ticket, some cash for food and drinks (20 to 30 euros should be enough) and a camera if you want to capture the festivities. Make sure you bring a waterproof camera or you can get plastic cases you sling around your neck easily in Valencia in stores such as Ale-Hop for only a couple of euro. I had one of these and not a single bit of tomato juice got in.
There are lockers on site but the line to get one is huge and there’s limited availability so best to bring only what you can carry.
If you’re coming in by a tour bus, you can also bring a change of clothes and leave them on the bus.
3. What should I wear?
The tomato juice seems to come out of most colours except white and grey. If you want to show the evidence of being in a food fight, wear white. Consider wearing clothes you don’t care about just in case. My white shirt was stained red but the tomato washed right out of my coloured shorts.
Don’t wear thongs. You’ll either lose them or have a blowout (I saw that many blown out abandoned thongs floating in the tomato juice). Crocs are good or just old shoes you don’t care about throwing away – it’s hard to get all the tomato out of your shoes and if you don’t dry them properly they’ll smell anyway.
Definitely bring goggles or at the very minimum sunglasses you don’t mind if they fall off and get broken. Tomato in your eyes really does sting so investing in something for your eyes is worth it.
4. Can I buy food and drink there?
Yes. There’s a number of food stalls leading into the main plaza ranging from sausages to paella. You can also buy beer, water and sangria so bring some money along for a bite to eat and some beers before and after.
5. How early should I get there?
To secure the best spot, get to Plaza del Pueblo at least an hour before the starting time of 11am. The festival attracts thousands of people from all across the world each year so you’re fighting for the best spots among the action with a lot of people. The most popular spot is near the flagpole.
6. What happens at La Tomatina?
The tomato throwing starts when someone gets the greased up ham from the top of flagpole in the middle of town. If you didn’t get a spot near the flagpole, you’ll know the food fight has started once you hear the firing of a cannon around 11am. Then the trucks drive in and the food fight starts. Tomatoes rain down from the trucks and then the tomatoes just keep getting thrown around, working down into the side streets. The trucks come through a few times along the main street so if you missed the first run, don’t worry the trucks will come through again with more tomatoes. It’s said around 100 metric tons of tomatoes are thrown each year at La Tomatina.
The locals also join in the action and tip water from their windows on the crowds below.
The food fight lasts for about an hour but you can weave your way out of the crowd at any time.
7. How messy will I get?
As messy as you want. It depends how long you stay in the food fight and where you stand.
If you’re standing in the middle of the main street as the trucks came through, you’ll be covered from head to toe in tomato. If you’re in the side streets, it depends how long you stay there.
About half an hour into the food fight, you’re basically wading through rivers of tomato sauce as it runs down the street. People scoop it from the ground using their hands and beer cups and tip it on people’s heads or just throw it onto whoever’s nearby.
Some of my friends only got a few tomatoes thrown at them, and then headed out of the crowd and hardly looked like they had been in a food fight.
I was in the side streets and chose to stay to the end and got very messy with tomato all through my hair, clothes and in my shoes.
Embrace the food fight and have fun – and don’t worry that you got tomato in your hair and shoes…or mouth and ears. It’s not very often it’s acceptable to throw tomatoes at people. The messier you get, the better I say.
8. Can I get hurt?
Some of the not so ripe tomatoes do hurt a little when they hit you on the face. If you don’t want to get whole tomatoes thrown at you, avoid standing near where the trucks come in or try to get up higher on the window frames etc. People will target you.
The rules are that tomatoes are supposed to be squished before they’re thrown but a few whole ones sneak in. You’re not likely to get seriously hurt but it might sting a little.
If you’re little like me, it’s best to stick to the side streets and near the wall so you don’t get swept up in the crowd. I also recommend having a friend with you just in case. Make sure you arrange a meeting point with your friend though just in case you get separated in the crowd.
9. Where do I wash off all the tomato?
There’s showers provided on site in various areas or you can get hosed off. The Buñol River is also nearby but I wouldn’t trust it’s clean. Against my better judgement, I did wash off in the river and then had a bit of a stomach bug the next day. Stick with the showers and hoses if you can, you just might have to wait in line.
10. What happens after the food fight?
After you’ve cleaned yourself off, head to the bar and hit the dancefloor. You can grab lunch here from the various stalls but food tends to sell out quickly so if you’re hungry, go grab something straight after the food fight.
Then it’s back to Valencia to enjoy the nightlife and cheap tapas.