Published on April 9th, 2013 | by Mike Corey1
A Beginner’s Guide to: La Tomatina
There is something wildly exciting about yelling the words “Fooood Fight” at the top of your lungs. Blame it on the media, but it’s one of the only types of fights most of us want to be in the middle of. From the Running of the Bulls, to the Baby Jumping Festival, Spain definitely throws some of the craziest parties on the planet. La Tomatina, the biggest food fight in the world, is no exception. Mike Corey from Kick the Grind TV shares some tips on what to know before you go:
Known as the largest food fight on the planet, La Tomatina had its genesis roughly 70 years ago. In it’s first few years authorities attempted to ban it, but failed after an overwhelming amount of local support. There are stories of tomatoes being thrown at politicians, local kids causing tipping a fruit cart, bad musicians getting pelted. No matter how it started, with 40,000 annual tomato enthusiasts it quickly became the largest food fight in the world, and sure puts the quiet little town of 5000 called Buñol on the map.
When to Go:
The chaos happens one day every year; the last Wednesday of August. The festival “starts” at 10am when some of the more weasely participants try to ascend a greased pole to grab a piece of Ham attached to it’s summit. This is called the Palo Jamón, and whether the ham is snagged or not is irrelevant. A canon sounds at 11am and the fight begins. For 1 hour the streets run red with tomato pomace and lycopene, and then it is all very promptly cleaned up. Tourists stained pink filter out back out from whence they came, and the town relaxes.
How to Get There:
The most common route for attending the La Tomatina is to fly into the beautiful town of Valencia on Spain’s East Coast, and taking a train to Buñol. The inhabitants of Valencia notoriously have no idea how the trains run on this day, and like I read online prior to arriving, will tell you name of the wrong platform when you’re looking to take a train to the festival in the morning. I’m still wondering if this is a little prank they pull on tourists, or if the train schedule changes on this day to accommodate the huge influx of people trying to get from Valencia to Buñol for the festival. I was told to go to the Main Station by locals, but took a tip from an online source and went to a different train station instead. I arrived at the San Isildré train station at 5:45am to catch the first train at 6:00am, and was threw some silent fist pumps as I saw the massive line awaiting the first train. (Probably the only time I’ll ever be excited to wait in cue). I would recommend getting there before 5:30 if you want a spot on the first train, and the best spot at the festival. I ended up on the 3rd or 4th train, and it’s about a 45 minute ride.
What to Bring:
White is the uniform of choice. You can bring your own shirt, but there are many different people selling La Tomatina Shirts as you wait in line for the morning train. They are relatively cheap ~7€ and I recommend grabbing one. I still have my tomato stained shirt pinned to the wall. For the bottom half of your body, something with deep or zipper/button up pockets that can also stand getting soaked. I wore blue board shorts, and they came out fine after being washed.
Don’t wear flip-flops or open toe shoes. At more than one point your feet will become a vantage point for others to get a better shot. If I was going to go back, shoes like crocs would be perfect (minus the fact you’re wearing crocs). I wore some beat up running shoes that I foolishly tried to keep after. Besides turning from gray to pink, they smelled like a compost heap and I had to trash them a few days later. Washing was futile.
You’ll see many blogs and articles from previous attendees saying that wearing goggles is a must. I ended up buying some, and only wore them for a few minutes as they kept on getting caked in tomato. Taking a rogue fruit square to the face isn’t a great time, but neither is being blind. I was able to have more fun, and dodge more projectiles with them off. I wore contacts during the fight and ended up ok, though I did need to put in a new pair afterward.
Pockets are a necessity as I would advise against bringing a bag. I heard rumours of places to would store your belongings, but I didn’t see any. I just brought what I would need for the next 12 hours, bought my water and food there, and travelled light. Don’t bother with a towel or a change of clothes. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to get clean after the festival as many of the locals love to stand on their rooftops and blast you with cold water as you walk back to the train station or one of the other main squares. It’s very warm in Spain during that time of year anyway, so it’s actually quite nice.
What to Expect:
Forget having personal space. You will be packed tighter than you have ever been in your life, there will be shoving, and there will be people standing on your feet. This is not the festival for you if you are claustrophobic, and with 40 000 people packed into tight stone alleyway, there is no escape until the festival is over. That’s the bad part, if you can get over the “Front Row at a Metal Show” felling, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and will go down in the books as one of the craziest days of your life.
Best Tour Companies:
There are some great tours companies that offer accommodations and buses departing Valencia. Having a “home base” to keep things you’re carrying, and also avoiding that monstrous train cue is a good idea. Feel free to ask a Flight Centre Travel Consultant for more info on these tour offerings and availability:
Enjoy 4 days of fun in Spain, the unforgettable tomato fight in Buñol, and 3 nights’ accommodation on this 4 day tour starting at $365. What’s included: Commemorative trip t-shirt, 3 night’s hotel accommodation, 3 breakfasts, return coach transfers from Valencia to Buñol, La Tomatina information booklet and a Valencia walking tour with a European trained Topdeck trip leader.
Busabout is Europe’s Hop-on Hop-off travel network for free-spirited budget-conscious travellers. You choose where you go and how long you stay. Check out their 5-Day tour start at $689
First Festival Travel
One of the highlights of this tour is the add-on feature to a local water and wine festival. Always on the Tuesday night before the tomato fight, you are invited to join the locals as they celebrate the new harvest for an all night fiesta. There is both a 3 or 4 day option tour starting at $349 per person.
There’s also a great website called couchsurfing.com. It’s widely known as a platform to find free accommodations, but it also has a great message board where you can connect with locals at different events. The community on the site is fantastic, and I ended up finding a group of people heading to the festival; one of which had a grand father who lived in Buñol, we indulged in some pre-game sangria, and swapped old travel stories while we waited for everything to start.
Want to start planning your trip to Spain to experience La Tomatina for yourself? Contact one of our Travel Consultants at 1-877-967-5302 or connect with us online. We’ve got some great deals to Europe on for a limited time only.