La Tomatina gives a whole new meaning to painting the town red.

If you want to discover the highlights of Spain this summer, why not tie in your Spanish adventure with La Tomatina – one of the world’s biggest food fights. Located 40 kilometres from the vibrant city of Valencia in the small, usually sleepy town of Buñol, join a crowd of 20,000 people to throw truckloads of tomatoes at each other and have a lot of laughs along the way. Mad, (very) messy and memorable, after experiencing La Tomatina, you'll probably never look at a tomato in the same way again.

What is La Tomatina and why is it celebrated?

La Tomatina is a tomato-throwing festival that takes place on the last Wednesday in August in Buñol. The origins of the festival date back to 1945 and there are a few theories as to why it started. Legend has it a group of rambunctious youngsters knocked over a giant paper mache figure in a parade. Somewhere in the kerfuffle, a fight broke out and the crowd started throwing tomatoes at each other from a nearby vegetable cart. The people of Buñol returned the following year to do it all again (minus the fight) – and so the tradition began! While La Tomatina has no religious ties, it's now held in honour of St Louis Bertrand, the patron saint of Buñol and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenceless).

What to expect at La Tomatina

The tomato fight usually kicks off at 11 am. Traditionally, the festival can only start once someone in the crowd fetches a ham that is placed at the top of a greased 30-foot pole, but it's usually too difficult (no kidding), so it begins when the water cannon is fired. Trucks arrive carrying around 150 tonnes worth of overripe tomatoes for the crowds to pelt. The battle lasts for two hours and there are a few rules you need to follow to respect your fellow food fighters (more on that later). The battle officially ends when the second-siren sounds. If you go back to Buñol a few days later, it's like nothing ever happened! There are also a few events in Buñol in the days leading up to La Tomatina including a huge paella-cooking competition where locals battle it out to make the tastiest version of Spain's most beloved dish.

What are the rules of La Tomatina?

If you want to enjoy La Tomatina to the fullest, there are a few rules you need to follow to keep you and your fellow tomato throwers safe.

  • Don't enter the festivals with any glass bottles, hard objects, backpacks or anything else that could injure others
  • Squash tomatoes before throwing them
  • Make way for tomato trucks and keep your distance
  • Stop throwing tomatoes when you hear the second siren – unfortunately all good things must come to an end!
  • Follow security staff directions

Highlights of La Tomatina

Old Buildings in Buñol, Spain

Explore Buñol

The charming town of Buñol is well worth a visit before the madness of La Tomatina. The town is located on the Buñol River and is surrounded by mountains and farms, with some fantastic walking trails through the picturesque Valencian countryside. Meander the cobbled streets of the old town, visit the 13th-century Buñol Castle (one of the most well preserved in Valencia), hike to the pristine Cueva de Turche waterfall for a refreshing swim, or enjoy the serenity of the town (while you can!) at a local bar.

Paella cooking in a pot

Go to a paella cook off

If there's one place to try Spain's most famous dish, it's in Valencia. Coming from humble beginnings, legend has it paella originated in Valencia when hungry servants would create rice dishes in large pots using leftovers from Moorish kings' lavish banquets. The paella cooking contest is one of the most-anticipated events leading up to La Tomatina. Watch locals battle it out to make the best dish and smell the delicious aromas of saffron-flavoured rice, vegetables, seafood and meat bubbling over the fire. 

A person's feet covered in tomato juice at La Tomatina

Get involved in the battle

What does it look like when 20,000 people throw 150 tonnes of tomatoes tonnes at each other for two hours? The answer is messy, very messy. Chaos ensues from the moment the water cannon fires so prepare yourself for tomatoes to be launched from every direction. Taking part in the world's biggest food fight isn't something you do every day, so you may as well go all out. Squish tomatoes with your bare hands, pelt tomatoes at friends and strangers, or maybe even swim in actual pools of passata – why not!

A group of people enjoying drinks and food at a bar

Continue the fiesta in Valencia

When you've cleaned up and changed into fresh clothes, join your fellow festival-goers in Valencia. Whether you're all tomatoed out or you want to continue riding the tomato high, Valencia is a bustling city brimming with restaurants and bars, a beautiful Old Town and stunning architecture that reveals its rich history. Spend a few days in the city exploring the cobbled streets, go on the hunt for the best paella on Placa de Reina, or perhaps learn something new in one of the city's many museums or art galleries.

La Tomatina FAQs

La Tomatina usually happens on the last Wednesday of August. This year it will take place on Wednesday 31 August.

Ticket prices vary depending on whether you want just a ticket (€12), or a ticket with a locker, official event t-shirt, goggles and afterparty which range from €12 to €40.

To buy tickets, visit the official La Tomatina website

La Tomatina was banned in the early 1950s by the Franco government because it didn’t have religious ties. The people of Buñol accepted this at first, but protests soon began to resume the festivities – but it wasn’t your typical protest! Carrying a coffin with a giant tomato inside, the residents of Buñol marched down the street to sombre music and staged their very own tomato burial. This ingenious protest was a great success and La Tomatina continued once again.

La Tomatina originally had no religious ties and was purely for fun – that’s if your idea of fun involves getting drenched in tomato juice! However, the festival is now held in honour of the town’s patron saint, St. Louis Bertrand, and the Mare de Deu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenceless).

There’s one golden nugget of advice when it comes to packing for La Tomatina: don’t pack anything you don’t want to get ruined. You’ll be covered head to toe in tomato juice so old t-shirts and shorts that you don’t mind throwing out are ideal. We recommend wearing a pair of trainers as the ground can get very slippery (flip-flops will slide off) and a pair of goggles to protect your eyes. You’ll also need some fresh clothes to wear after the tomato fight. To carry your phone and money, it’s best to leave them at your hotel or wear a money belt. You might want to consider a waterproof case for your phone if you want to take photos.

August is the height of summer in Spain so it’s hot, dry and sunny in most parts of the country, however temperatures tend to be a bit cooler in the north. Average daytime highs vary slightly throughout the country but linger around 28°C (82°F), and evenings are balmy with average lows of 21C (70F). August is one of the driest months with very little or no chance of rainfall.

Travellers from Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan and more can visit Spain for 90 days in a six-month period with no visa, as long as they have no plans to work. Citizens of the European Union and Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are not required to obtain a visa but must abide by local residency requirements if they plan to stay for more than 90 days.

Travellers visiting from Cambodia, Ecuador, India, Nepal and various other countries must obtain a visa from the Spanish consulate or embassy in their region – allow at least two weeks for it to be issued. Check your visa requirements with your local embassy or consulate before travelling. 

Overall, Spain is a welcoming and safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers. Same-sex marriage is legal, and laws exist to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals to live free from discrimination (though employment discrimination laws do not yet protect transgender individuals). 

Public opinion on LGBTQIA+ individuals is relatively positive. Though LGBTQIA+ travellers may encounter more conservative views in rural areas and small towns, the risk of experiencing overt discrimination in Spain is very low for travellers. Transgender individuals and gender non-conforming folks are widely accepted in Spain, though gender identity-based discrimination still occurs.

For more detailed and up-to-date advice, we recommend visiting Equaldex or ILGA before you travel.

Intrepid is committed to making travel widely accessible, regardless of ability or disability. That’s why we do our best to help as many people see the world as possible, regardless of any physical or mental limitations they might have. We’re always happy to talk to travellers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them towards the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Spain is a mixed bag when it comes to access for travellers with disabilities. While some regions like Catalonia are proactively working to meet the needs of travellers with disabilities, others may prove challenging for travellers with mobility and/or visual impairments.  

Barcelona is notable as one of the most wheelchair-friendly cities in Europe. All of Barcelona’s major sights are accessible for wheelchair users, and some beaches have all-terrain wheelchairs for free hire as well as boardwalks that extend to the water. The vast majority of metro stations and all buses are accessible to folks with reduced mobility. Many train stations in Barcelona have tactile strips to direct folks with vision impairments to platforms, ticket machines and elevators. Ticket machines and elevators have speech options in a variety of languages. 

Madrid is also a city committed to accessible travel, with metro and bus systems that can be used by people with mobility and visual impairments, and many accessible monuments.

Spain’s national parks are somewhat accessible, as they are commonly outfitted with accessible interpretation centres and viewpoints. The trails of the Picos de Europa are well-maintained and non-reflective, so may be accessible to people with visual impairments (depending on the severity of the impairment).

Travellers who use battery-operated hearing aids should familiarise themselves with the Spanish equivalent of the batteries their devices need.

If you do live with a visual, hearing or other impairment, let your booking agent or group leader know early on so they’re aware and suitable arrangements can be made. As a general rule, knowing some common words in the local language, carrying a written itinerary with you and taking to the streets in a group, rather than solo, can help make your travel experience the best it can be.

Learn more about Accessible Travel with Intrepid

Everyone travelling on an Intrepid trip must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of carriage. 

All travellers are required to produce: 

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccination
  • All children aged 5 to 17 years old must provide proof of vaccination (if eligible), proof of recovery or a negative COVID-19 test.
  • If you are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, you may apply for an exemption. Exemptions will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. To apply, you must provide a medical certificate from a medical professional. 

In all cases, you must be fully inoculated. This means you must receive the full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine and allow enough time for immunity to take effect. Each COVID-19 vaccine has different dosages and timeframes for inoculation, so please check the relevant medical advice associated with your vaccine.

Learn more about Intrepid's COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy

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