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 25 miles (40 kilometers) 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 honor 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 tons 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
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 honor 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 21°C (70°F). August is one of the driest months with very little or no chance of rainfall.
Travelers 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.
Travelers 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+ travelers. 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+ travelers may encounter more conservative views in rural areas and small towns, the risk of experiencing overt discrimination in Spain is very low for travelers. Transgender individuals and gender non-conforming folks are widely accepted in Spain, though gender identity-based discrimination still occurs.
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Spain is a mixed bag when it comes to access for travelers with disabilities. While some regions like Catalonia are proactively working to meet the needs of travelers with disabilities, others may prove challenging for travelers 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 centers 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).
Travelers who use battery-operated hearing aids should familiarize 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.
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