For 364 days of the year, Buñol is a sleepy Valencian town of 9,000 inhabitants where nothing much of interest happens. However, on 31st August at 11am things will look a little different…
By 11am the town will have quadrupled in size with thrill seekers descending from all corners of the world.
The local townspeople will then compete with each other trying to climb a greased pole two stories high, situated in the Plaza del Pueblo to signify the beginning of ‘La Tomatina’. The winner’s prize at the top of the pole? A ham.
But no-one waits to see who wins. By the time the pole is half climbed, the first of 150,000 tomatoes will have been thrown.
“[T]he gun goes off, the fight begins, and the tomatoes pour out of trucks” NomadicMatt.com
It’s every man for himself for the next hour as revellers indiscriminately splatter each other with 40 tonnes of Spanish tomatoes until the festivities are bought to a halt by a cannon fire.
It is chaotic and bizarre in equal measure… but it does look like fun!
It’s not entirely known how the festival began. The popular theory is that in 1945 a number of disgruntled townsfolk began to protest against the city councilmen, whilst a truck carrying tomatoes coincidently broke down.
As the story goes, the resulting melee was so enjoyable that they decided to repeat the food fight each year since.
Other theories say that it was an anti-Franco protest (who banned the festival under his reign) and another says it began as a heckle on a local busker. Whatever the origins, tomatoes featured. And were mightily thrown.
Handy tips for La Tomatina
Leave your WeSwap card in the hotel – only take essentials. Squashed tomato can be unforgiving to electronics so leave cards and your mobile at home.
Choose accommodation wisely – most festival goers stay in Valencia and get a bus or train in the morning. Buñol doesn’t have much in the way of hotels or hostels, so if you don’t book well in advance, Valencia will be your best option.
Plan your outfit – White clothes are traditional, but by no means compulsory. Bear in mind that anything you wear will be ruined so an old set of clothes and shoes are a good idea. Also, flip flops seldom survive the onslaught.
Squash your tomato first – this is one of the only rules and prevents injuries.
Have you been to Tomatina? What are your tips to survive the squishy onslaught?