We went..We survived it..We had a blast 😃 ….
I’ve had La Tomatina on my bucket list for quite a while now… A special 30th anniversary with my ‘B Gang’ turned out to be the perfect opportunity to go.
So.. what is Tomatina..
Its basically a tomato fight. A local festival in honour of the town’s patron saints – Luis Bertran; and the Mare de Deu dels Desemparats (Mother of the God of the Defenceless) (a title of the Virgin Mary).
Supposedly.. The celebrations go back to 1944/1945..
In rebellion to one particular year’s inflated taxes, the local disgruntled farmers decided they would rather waste their crop, than sell it at doctored prices..And in a moment of angst, attacked the town’s councilmen – yup.. with tomatoes.. So the story goes…
Well whatever be the reason for it, the ‘attack’ proved to be great fun and turned into a highly awaited annual event.
Over the years, the small town of Bunyol, with its population of 2000 – started attracting almost 50,000 visitors, for this 1 day. Mayhem. Hence since 2013, the visitor cap is set at 20,000 and you need a ticket to enter the ‘festival zone’.
Where is Tomatina
In Bunyol. A small town 38 kms from Valencia (a half hour by train…45 minutes by car / taxi)..
When is Tomatina
The last wednesday of every August. At 11am, for 1 hour.
Where to stay for Tomatina
Bunyol has a few Bed&Breakfasts (very very few) and some Airbnb options..but its a really really tiny town.
Staying in Valencia is much nicer (its a very beautiful city – really vibrant, loads of great bars and restaurants, fab shopping); and the commute is very easy. We went with AC Colon (Mariott).
What happens at Tomatina
The prelude to the tomato fight is quite interesting…so reach Bunyol latest by 9 – 930 in the morning; and stow away your stuff in the lockers.
Stroll through the town, people watching (we saw some really cool costumed dudes 😂 , breakfast on ‘churros con chocolate’; before you know it, its about 1030 by the time you get to the Plaza del Pueblo ( the town centre).
There – the ‘palojamon’ is a hilarious event in itself. A ham is hung atop a huge greasy pole (about 2 storeys high)..and officially- the festival opens only once a brave soul has clambered to the top and touched the ham. Easier said than done 😂 .
Well – freed ham or not…3 horns blare just before 11am…And sharp at 11 the first truck revs up, the water cannons are fired and the tomato unloading starts.
After that – well the battle has begun and its each man for himself (or herself 😉 ..Not my pic 👆 ..my phone s ‘juiced’ up by now)
Yes it hurts. Yes its yucky..YES ITS SO MUCH FUN!!!
Whether to be in the heart of the slush in the centre of the street; or on the pavement where you’re ‘slushed’ but lesser so; or to be behind the mesh fence – merely watching…its totally your call 😃 ..
Sharp at 12 noon- a final horn blares and its a very strict stop to the tomato throwing.
No more throwing – but you can continue squelching in the street or skidding down in the tomato puree a la Katrina Kaif in ZNMD.
Would I recommend it – MOST DEFINITELY…ITS SUPER FUN.
Well meaning friends had heard some concerning things and were worried for us safety wise, before we went…(Us girls getting touched inappropriately, the crowds becoming too much to handle, etc)..Well, now that we’ve done it, I can safely say – IT IS SAFE, period.
Keep your wits about you. Ofcourse, as you would at any large event. No valuables obviously- why take a chance…
In all honesty- the local authorities have got it covered and superbly so. The police, townsfolk, volunteers etc..are immensely friendly, corteous, helpful and right on top of things.
What you should know before going – and my tips, having experienced it first hand…
Firstly the things that no one had told us – online or otherwise…
Train bookings from Valencia to Bunyol dont happen online or in advance. Its considered a ‘local’ journey – not inter city. So if train is the plan, reach the Estacion del Nord early enough on the morning of the event. Or book the bus tickets alongwith your Tomatina tickets, if ‘bussing’ is how you intend to do it, coz Ticketstomatina.com’s bus options tend to get sold out.
Bunyol.com is another option for the bus at €17 per person, to and fro. But you have to be there at 7.15 am 😭.
Book a taxi, if you’re 4 or more..That’s what we did..Super. Honestly. Its €50 for a private vehicle, each way, at your time n pace..convenient..comfortable. Our hotel called n booked- but its the local taxi service so you could do it yourself or look up on Cabbify.
- For all the guys out there…wear an abdominal guard (the same one you wear for sports). The tomatoes really hurt (M has specifically asked me to add in this pointer).
- Head for Zone 8. Its the end of the road for the trucks (although 3 trucks did start out n unload there itself). Easy to walk to from the street and just inside from where the barricades are. Its called the ‘child friendly zone’ as in there’s less of shoving, jostling etc. Easy to exit out of. All 5 of us found it just right.
- Don’t jump into the thick of things as soon as the trucks have unloaded the tomatoes…they hurt the most at the beginning. 5-10 mins into it, the tomatoes have been tossed around some, trampled some…so they ll hurt less when they re thrown at you. Trust me you won’t feel left out…there’s loads to go around 😃 .
- Don’t wait for the thing to end at noon. If you get out a lil before, its easier to get to the showers etc. If you want the hard-core stuff though, head for Zone 1 (that s also where the slope from ZNMD is,).
- The free showers are by the river. If they re too crowded, just walk through the town and there ll be loads of locals offering to hose you down….€1 for only hosing; €2 for hosing and shower gel to go with it 😃 .
- For the vegetarians out there..don’t be disappointed seeing only the hot dogs and seafood Paella stalls..There are a couple of stalls selling vegetarian Paella and vegetarian sandwiches and I believe they are on every year. There’s also one stand with Vegetarian Pizza.. You ll come across them on the way through town going towards the station, until then – fortify yourself with the French fries you’ll probably come across before..
Book the tickets online from. ticketstomatina.com. Easy wristband pick up, great staff both at the office and the event, sufficient counters and conveniently located (both the band pick up in Valencia as well as the lockers etc at the event).
The other agency tomatinatickets.com (yup very easy to mistake one for the other), had huge lines, were located pretty far from the train/bus station; and had practically no staff around in case you needed to ask about something. Exactly as the forums had said it.
- Book the ticket with locker option. The ‘locker’ is just 1 box per ticket. But its handy for keeping that 1 bag you’ ll have with the change of clothes and shoes. Unless you’ ve got all the ‘tomato mulch’ off you- trust me, you won’t be allowed back on any form of transport or even inside your accomodation.
- Wear something fun..old ofcourse (its not really going to be re-usable later)..but if you’re with a bunch of friends, then do something fun (we regretted that we had’nt done it, once we saw the group in ‘Togas’, another one in ‘Dhotis’ and a group of grandmothers in co-ordinated pink outfits with pink daisy sunglasses 😃 !
- The swim goggles on your eyes are important..just carry them from home..If you ve forgotten them, loads on sale once you get to Bunyol.
- Wear close toed shoes. Water shoes if you have them. Avoid sneakers or keds- they get annoyingly sloppy, heavy and smelly post. Unless you’ re just throwing them away later. Slip ons definitely a no-no.
- MOST IMP…go with a fun bunch of friends..and try to leave the inhibitions at home 😉 .