I got nervous as we arrived right before the massive trucks packed with vegetables drove through the crowded streets. Young, old, guy and girl alike waited for the signal that would start the food fight. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m pretty sure I just paid 10 Euros to get my first black eye from a tomato.
La Tomatina: The Tomato Festival in Spain Unraveled
I put on the worst of my travel clothes, knowing that they would probably go in the garbage at day’s end. We had been in Valencia for four days, with the La Tomatina festival quite literally right around the corner, and I begged my adventurous friend to partake with me.
La Tomatina, labeled as the “world’s largest food fight” is a giant festival in late August every year. Held in the town of Bunol, Spain thousands of people gather every year to crush their companions to death with tomatoes. The official website asks that you purchase tickets before hand as participation is limited. However, we had not planned ahead but decided to try and get in anyway. Wristbands were available outside the fight zone prior to the match so we paid our 10 Euros each and proceeded into enemy territory.
Plaza del Pueblo, where the fighting takes place is packed with people. You are body to body with every other tomato lover, so stay close to your friends or you may lose them in the madness. Trucks carrying thousands of tomatoes roll through the streets, and once the cannon goes off it’s every person for themselves. The first five minutes of the hour-long fight were met with excitement and triumph as everyone squashed their tomatoes and threw them in the air. I must say squashing a tomato over my friend’s head was something I had always wanted to do.
As the fighting gets more and more intense, it gets hard to see from all the tomato juice. My contacts quickly became irritated, and people started disregarding the rules and began to throw full tomatoes. Then it happened. A hard tomato was thrown at my right eye. Uhh OW!
The fun had ended, there were too many people around, I got anxiety and I couldn’t find a way out of this mess! I looked at my friend and I could tell the excitement had ended for her as well. We fought through the crowds to locate any empty street we could find. The local bars were gearing up to get crushed with the home-grown vegetable monster, but all we could think about was getting all these red guts off of us.
Knowing what’s in store, the local people let grimy tourist wash off with their hoses and buckets before heading onward. Thankfully, we had left the party early and located an empty hose before the crowd. The other members of our party had decided to sit out on the fun and laughed at us all the way to Barcelona.
La Tomatina – I can say that I did it. Would I do it again…I’ll sit on the rooftops and watch from afar.
Know before you go to the Tomato Festival in Spain
- Wear shoes! The streets are packed with people and your feet will get stepped on.
- Protect your electronics. A watertight bag for your phone and camera are essential.
- Your clothes will most likely be ruined. Be prepared to throw them out.
- Goggles are useful especially for contact wearers.
- Although the website said sold out, we were still able to purchase wristbands at the gate.
- Buying a ticket through a tour operator is not the only way to experience the festival. With your own transportation, you can buy a wristband for 10 Euro.