For the ones who heard of La Tomatina before, yeayyy. For the ones who is asking “What is this tomato you are talking about??” Well, La Tomatina is a yearly festival in the town of Buñol -close to Valencia, Spain- where thousands and thousands of people gather to throw tomatoes at each other.
Sounds fun right? That is exactly what I thought when I first saw a documentary about it on TV. It has been an item on my bucket list for years ever since. Who doesn’t dream about being smacked in the face with tomatoes? Right… crazy Jess does. The year of 2016 was looking promising, so I put my plan into motion.
First I booked my flight to Valencia ASAP. As it is cheap from Belgium with RyanAir, I booked through them. Usually the festival is held on the last Wednesday of August during the festivities of Buñol. Depending if you want to see the city of Valencia as well, like we did, you could stay 1 or 2 nights extra.
Then I looked for some La Tomatina packages, including entrance, transport and hotel. Off course if you rather do it all yourself, I suggest you to book a nice hostel/hotel in Valencia and just fix the entrance ticket online and maybe the transport. Check the official site of La Tomatina to see the official partners.
Lastly and most important before leaving: packing. I figured wearing some old clothes you can toss away after was a good call. Also the same goes for the shoes. Remember you are NOT allowed to take bags into the streets of the food fight. The best thing to do is get a plastic hanger to hang around your neck. You can put your cellphone there (if you really need it, I left mine behind in our main bag), some money, and your IDS. For my pictures and videos, I used my GoPro as it has a waterproof case. So if you want to capture this experience, think of bringing a waterproof cam.
So we booked a package and they picked us up at our hotel in the morning. They gave us T shirts of the festival and the festival bracelet and left us in Buñol. From the Bus Park it is still a way to the center by foot. But you won’t get lost I ensure you, just follow the hoard. I never imagined it would be so many people coming there, people ALL around the world gathers for the event. It isn’t hard to make friends on the way, you just start talking to anybody during the walk to town. Oh yeah, the cheap 1 Liter sangria/ beer cups they sell also helps you socialize.
So put everything you need, like the towels, new clothes, bottle of water, some food… in the bag and store it up in a local bag holder (= local shops who keep it for you for a small amount). If you come with a tour package, they allow you to leave the bags in the bus.
If you are going on your own, make sure to be there around 10am. The fight will start at 11 am sharp.
Tradition wise, the fight doesn’t start until somebody of the town climbs a large and greasy pole on the town square and get the ham that is placed on top of it. After that happens, around 11am the fight starts. We didn’t manage to get close to the pole to see the ham grabbing. We just went with the flow really and just waited to start. You wait and wait with people screaming around like in a music festival and some locals throwing water from their windows, but all in fun intentions.
Then you see the first truck from afar, and you wait some more. As the truck approaches, policemen and staff help to push the hoard away so it can pass. So prepare to be SMASHED. On top of the trucks you see people already stirring everyone up and throwing some tomatoes at the crowd. Then the truck stops and literally DROPS a shitload of tomatoes and IT STARTS!
The fight only lasts one hour, in one hour you go from “Wth is happening?” to “OMG THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!”. About 6 or 7 trucks passed, can’t really remember how many though. Every time you are pushed aside and need to wait for the tomatoes. They fire two shots at the end and the tomato throwing stops.
It is a mess, you will get MESSY! If you have super high hygiene standards, this food fight is just not for you. You will get tomatoes EVERYWHERE, in your hair, in your nose, in your ears, in places down under and you will reek of tomato sauce for a long time. The burning sun doesn’t help to hide the smell either, on the contrary…
They said there were showers, but we couldn’t find them anywhere, except if you paid extra…There are locals everywhere “showering” you with a hose, but the lines were long.. .So bring some old towels with you and maybe a bottle of water as we did to clean up as much as you can before heading back to the bus/car. It is better to take a long bath afterwards.
But it didn’t matter how dirty I got, how much I stank, how long it took to take a bath and how orange my nails looked for days,.. I wouldn’t trade the experience for nothing in the world. The atmosphere is so intense and your adrenaline races up, the people are all there to have some fun and so will you.
The best advice is (coming from a rather hygienic person myself): just let it go, just put your mind on hold and forget for one hour about everything and just throw them tomatoes!
It really was a one in a life time experience and I would recommend anyone to do it at least once.
If you want to see a bit of how it really was, check my video below! Better watch it in HD