La Tomatina

World’s biggest tomato fight
Start: 30 August 2023
End: 30 August 2023

Address

Calle Del Cid, Buñol, Spain

GPS: 39.4185048, -0.7917577

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La Tomatina is a Spanish festival that happens on the last Wednesday of August. People from around the globe gather to experience what is regarded as the world’s biggest food fight, involving truckloads of specially grown tomatoes.

History is unclear about the tomato tossing origins of La Tomatina, with several stories about who started it, and why. Ask a local in the town of Buñol, where this annual festival is held, and they will give you their version of events. However it started, the tradition continues and today tonnes of tomatoes are thrown by friends and strangers each year in a slippery, squelchy hour-long battle.

The tomato fight takes place in Buñol’s town square and along a wide street called Calle Del Cid. These areas are crowded with revellers by mid-morning, which is when the first tradition of the day is initiated. A soap-covered pole is erected in the town square with a ham (jamón) fixed to the top of it. People take turns attempting to climb the pole and retrieve the ham. During this time, locals in the surrounding houses douse the festival participants from above with water. Traditionally, the tomato fight started when the ham was retrieved, but for convenience, the battle is now initiated at a set starting time, which is marked by the firing of a cannon.

Six truckloads of tomatoes are brought into the designated area, and this squelchy ammunition is systematically offloaded into the crowded space to allow the food fight to commence. After exactly an hour, the cannon is fired again, marking the end of the juicy conflict. Locals then begin cleaning off the participants with hoses, while fire trucks with high pressure hoses clean the streets.

While many participants come to Buñol just for the tomato fight, the week leading up to the event includes live music, dancing, fireworks and parades. The night before the fight is marked by a paella cooking contest where women traditionally dress in white and men go shirtless. La Tomatina is a truly outlandish Spanish festival, and those who experience this red riot first-hand find it unforgettable.

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  • Watching the epic struggle to climb the soap-covered pole (palo-jamón) to retrieve the ham
  • Hurling tomatoes at complete strangers
  • Being hosed down by smiling locals after the second cannon fires
  • According to the official version, the beginnings of La Tomatina date back to 1945, but it was only formally authorised by the municipality in 1957. It was a classic parade that turned into a tomato-based street fight.
  • The tomatoes used in La Tomatina are grown exclusively for the event, nearby to Buñol. The variety grown is optimised for throwing rather than eating. In addition, the majority of the fruit used is too ripe and therefore compromised for sale in the trade.
  • The citric acid from the tomatoes results in the surfaces of Buñol becoming cleaner than before the event, once the tomato pulp is washed away.
  • Tomato pulp is good for your skin, so becoming covered with it is a health benefit.
  • Due to the success of this event (about two thirds of the participants attending La Tomatina are foreigners), similar festivals have been set up in other parts of the world: in North America (United States), South America (Argentina, Chile and Colombia), Central America (Costa Rica) and Asia (China, South Korea and India).
  • Visiting Buñol prior to the packed festival, even the day before, can help you find your way around when the streets get busy on the day of the festival.
  • Buñol is 40 kilometres from Valencia, and you can travel by train, bus or car. The first train leaves Valencia at 6:30 am.
  • To enter the tomato battle area, each person will have to pay €10 to contribute to the costs incurred by the municipality (including the tomatoes, the staff, the cleaning, etc.). Entry remains free for local residents. The maximum number of participants is set at 22,000 people (Buñol has just under 10,000 inhabitants).
  • A similar event is organised especially for children and admission is free. Called “La mini Tomatina”, it takes place one hour after the end of the main festival (which is reserved for those over 18) in the same place.
  • It is customary to wear cheap white clothes or swimming costumes to participate in the rowdy tomato throwing battle. It is also advisable to wear swimming goggles to protect your eyes.
  • It is recommended you arrive at least two hours before the start time (which starts at 11 am or 12 pm depending on the edition).
  • No bottles or hard objects are allowed into the tomato battle zone.
  • If you can’t find a local to hose you down afterwards, head to the Buñol River.

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