Do you want to make this year the best one yet? Or have you rejected all thoughts of festivals due to an insurmountable fear of festival toilets? Whether you are a hard-core party animal or a festival virgin, we take a look at La Tomatina, an experience worth braving festival toilets for.
La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain
WHAT: 150,000 tomatoes, 30,000 party goers and water launchers full of tomato juice – what could go wrong?
WHERE: Buñol, near Valencia, Spain
WHEN: Last Wednesday of August
Once a year, the population of the sleepy town of Buñol expands from just 9,000 to over 30,000. Forget your average food fights. Forget dignity. Forget your fear of being covered in read, sticky tomato juice. Get yourself to La Tomatina and, well, get covered in red sticky tomato juice. Aside from the incomparable glee of squashing an overripe tomato in a friend’s face – or, for that matter, in a stranger’s face, La Tomatina really must be experienced to be believed.
As with any iconic festival, the tales of La Tomatina’s origins vary, and include a food fight between friends, a Westside Story-esque class war, a democratic protest, a juvenile fight at an annual parade, and the inevitable result of a truck spillage. All accounts seem to agree that the first tomato fight took place in the mid-1940s, and was so much fun that it was repeated yearly thereafter. La Tomatina stopped when it was banned in the Franco years (for having no religious origins), but was resurrected with gusto in the 1970s. The juicy festival continued to rise in popularity and was free until 2013, when an estimated 40-50,000 revellers rammed the streets. Since then, tickets have been sold in order to limit numbers, keeping the tomato-hurlers to a mere 30,000.
Despite being one of the most popular festivals in Europe, La Tomatina is still all about good, not-so-clean, fun. As such, there are rules that must be stuck to: bottles and other potentially hazardous missiles are prohibited, as are ripping clothes and other potentially violent physical contact. Participants are asked to crush tomatoes before throwing them, to avoid injury. Oh, and there is a greased pole, with a massive ham at the top (Palojabon). Keep an eye out for that: in theory, the tomato throwing can’t start until someone has climbed to the top of the pole and reached the ham.
The throwing only lasts for an hour, after which water cannons are turned on the street, returning the roads, shops and street signs to their former, pristine glory. The clean-up operation focuses more on the village itself than festival-goers, so many people head to the local stream for a quick rinse-off.
The basic price of tickets is €10 and can they be purchased from an organised tour operator or direct from the council website. There are a range of options, including ticket packages that include use of cloakrooms and festival toilets, a serving of paella and sangria. Only people wearing official wristbands will be allowed to enter the village on the day of the festival, so make sure you buy your tickets before making your way to Buñol, to avoid disappointment.
Accommodation and Transport
There is limited accommodation in Buñol, so it is best to book early, or book accommodation in the nearby Valencia. You can get public transport (trains go direct frequently throughout the day), or you can book organised transport to the village in time for the festivities.
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TOP TIP: These may be obvious but: don’t wear your favourite clothes, don’t bring valuables and, if you have got the bus in from Valencia, do make sure you have clean, dry clothes stashed somewhere. Most of all, have fun! You’re at one of the most famous festivals in the world!