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. 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.
Getting There … 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 www.renfe.es 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.
Accommodation … Bunyol is a small village of some 9000 people whose population swells to some 30,000 on the day of La Tomatina. There is hardly any accommodation in the village itself so most budget visitors stay in a cheap hostel in Valencia. Alternatively there are plenty nice hotels 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 … 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.
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.