La Tomatina festival began with a food battle and ended in one of the biggest events in Spain. After three years of cancellations, the festivities come back in force. This huge celebration will leave a mark on the Spanish landscape, made of tomato footprints.
What is la Tomatina festival in Spain?
It’s the world’s biggest food fight, organized in Bunol. La Tomatina festival welcomes 20,000 people to cheerfully throw tomatoes at each other. They are from all over the world and populate the streets which usually host 9,000 inhabitants. It’s more than one hundred metric tons of over-ripe tomatoes thrown all over the city. Shopkeepers of Bunol usually protect their business from the mess by covering their storefronts with huge plastics.
The date of this year’s festivities has been revealed: the street will be stained in red on the 31st of August. Moreover, to compensate for the limited accommodation in Bunol, bus trips are organized to enjoy the best food fight. People usually stay at Valencia, which is only 38km from Bunol. But transportation is also offered from several Spanish cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Alicante, Malaga, and so on.
Program of the festival
The battle begins around 11 am. Several trucks make their way through the crowd to the center of Bunol: la plaza del Pueblo. They carry tons of tomatoes from Extremadura, because of their low prices. According to Tomatina festival facts, the event should start when one people reach the coveted ham on the top of a greased-up wooden pole. This hero will then be acclaimed, and the festivities will begin. But everybody is impatient, and this pole test takes a long time. So the hostilities usually started before anyone earn the meaty prize. Despite that, the long-awaited signal of the beginning is very clear.
The Tomatina festival in Spain is launched by the firing of water cannons. From that time on, everybody will be a target. The friendship and the family bond won’t matter anymore. During one intense hour, it will be each one for himself. The firing of new water cannons marks the end of the Tomatina festival. After this signal, no one can throw tomatoes anymore.
The streets are cleaned right away. The Roma Aqueduct supplies on-water fire trucks to spray down Bunol. The authorities don’t clean people, which leads most of the visitors to take an improvised bath on the Bunol River. Residents can open their doors to the lucky ones and let them use their showers. The acidity of the tomatoes let the city clean like a new penny.
La Tomatina festival in Spain rules
To avoid any overflows, and to throw tomatoes in the face of each other without any harm, la Tomatina festival has put several grand rules.
- – Do not bring any hard objects such as bottles. In the chaos of the battle, you can unintentionally harm someone with it.
- – Don’t grasp the clothes of other visitors. Even if everyone is your target, treat your enemy with respect.
- – Don’t get too close to the trucks
- – Squash the tomatoes before throwing them on faces. The hit will be less painful
- – After the end signal, follow the staff’s directions. They will guide you safely out of the stained zone.
Tips to enjoy the experience
To enjoy the festivities in all their potential, here are several pieces of advice to follow.
- – Wear used clothes. You will be there on a mission: throwing tomatoes as much as you can. Pretty items will not advantage you. A little extra advice, bring old white clothes. The combination of white and red tomatoes will be perfect.
- – Bring old shoes equipped with strong grips. Flip-flops are cool on the beach but penalizing during la Tomatina Festival. You can lose them during the hostilities.
- – Buy goggles before entering the arena. Even though the acidity of tomatoes is well-known for cleaning your skin, it can also sore your eyes. So, goggles glass to enjoy your natural exfoliation.
- – If you want to take memorable pictures of the battle, take with you a waterproof camera or a protective case.
- – La Tomatina festival is famous around the world. If you want to sleep in Bunol, you should look early for accommodations.
- – Being part of the world’s biggest food fight also means coming in advance! The festivities begin around 11 am but more than 20,000 are attended. Furthermore, the access by car will close at 7 am. If you want to enter the city, you will have to walk.
- – Always follow the staff’s instructions, from the beginning to the end of the day.
- – Win the palo-jabon. The ham on the top of the greased pool will be yours if you want to. You just have to climb…
- – And most of all: enjoy. It’s the only time when it’s advised to throw tomatoes in people’s faces.
Can we bring children to la Tomatina festival in Spain?
It’s authorized to bring children to the battle. It’s one of la Tomatina Festival facts, this event should be for everybody! But under the parents’ responsibilities. Here are several pieces of advice from the organizers.
- -Don’t take your eyes off your children. These little gremlins can disappear fast in the crowd.
- -Write your phone number on your child’s arm.
- -Don’t let him get closer to the trucks
On top of that, if your child is between 4 to 14 years old, he can participate in la Tomatina Kids festival.
la Tomatina Kids festival
Specially designed for the younger, la Tomatina Kids festival started in 2013. It was a big success, which had led to other editions through the years. In 2022, the festival is planned for the 22nd of August. At 12 am the first signal will be launched in la Plaza del Pueblo.
The rules applied are the same as for adults. Your children will need old clothes, shoes and of course goggles! Their eyes can be more sensitive to tomato acidity. Everything is adapted for the safety of children. Furthermore, la Tomatina Kids festival is designed for them to have the best memories.
This world’s biggest food fight for children will last 30 to 40 minutes. It’s la Tomatina festival in miniature and for free!
What is the history of la Tomatina festival in Spain?
Once upon a time in Bunol, a parade was on. People came from all over Spain to see Giants and Big Head figures dancing in the middle of the streets. Everybody was excited, especially a group of young boys. In fact, they were so enthusiastic that they wanted to be part of the parade procession. They pushed people that crossed their roads to achieve their purpose. And (un)fortunately, in the middle of the created chaos, someone fell off.
The anger rose in him like a volcano burst and suddenly exploded. He started to blindly hit everything that was in front of him. The chaos became stronger and swallowed a market stall of vegetables. People began to pelt each other with tomatoes. It had turned into a vegetable battle before the police were able to stop this madness. It was in 1945, and this is the history of la Tomatina Festival in Spain.
The following year, the boys recreated the situation. They started to throw tomatoes intentionally at visitors. This mess began to grow into a new tradition in Bunol. Everybody wanted to be part of it. But police only saw degradations in this practice. Thus they banned this habit in the 50s. This restriction didn’t stop the participants from cheerfully throwing tomatoes at each other. Over time, the participants’ innocent enthusiasm had reached the heart of the authorities. They finally allowed the festivities, with more visitors and more frenzy.
The story didn’t end here
Unfortunately, the practice kept canceled till 1957, when everything changed. A tomato burial was held as a sign of protest. Furthermore, the residents improvised a parade. And as the masterpiece of their demonstrations, they carried a coffin with a huge tomato inside. A music band playing funeral marches escort the protestation. After this strong rebellion, authorities gave up and allowed again the festivities. But for the first time, the festival became official.
In 1983, the journalist Javier Basilio released a documentary about this practice. It was broadcasted on a Spanish television program. Before the eyes of all the country, the inhabitants of Bunol piled up in the center to throw tomatoes at each other. Everybody was intrigued and enthusiastic by this local event.
Afterward, La Tomatina Festival has hosted more and more participants each year. Its name went beyond borders, and lands in the ears of people from other countries. In 2002, the Secretary Department of Tourism decreed La Tomatina of Bunol as the Festivity of International Tourist Interest. Since then, all the participants have lived happily ever after, covered by tomatoes. The morality of la Tomatina Festival history is to keep peeling tomatoes on people. Who knows, it might become legendary.
Where la Tomatina festival tickets in Spain are available?
As explained earlier, Bunol can’t host everybody on site. Therefore, the Tomatina Festival tickets cover trips from 10 Spanish cities to the little town. And the package trip for the food fight is basically the same for each departure.
Indeed, the Tomatina festival tickets include:
- – The roundtrip, back and forth
- – Access to the center of Bunol during the festivities
- – One Tomatina t-shirt (lucky you)
- – Travel insurance
- – Paella and Sangria (which are optional but strongly recommended)
During the hostilities, you can leave your personal belongings on the bus. It will only slow you down. Furthermore, don’t forget to bring a photocopy of your ID or passport. Otherwise, you will not have access to la Tomatina area.
What changes from one city to another is of course the time of departure, according to the distance between the town and Bunol. But no matter what city you leave from, be prepared to wake up early!
One last thing, la Tomatina festival tickets are out of stock quickly. So don’t wait anymore and register for the world’s biggest food fight!
La Tomatina festival is a famous atypical event. Yet, it’s not the only one. All-year-round Spain hosts unique festivals, which attract people from all over the world. In our humble opinion, each Spanish event should be on your bucket list.