Held in the small town of Buñol for around 70 years now, the tomato fight has grown so much in popularity that a couple years ago an entry fee and limit on people had to be introduced.
It’s not hard to see why so many are interested in partaking though – when you get to be part of one of the largest food fights ever involving around 150,000 tomatoes!
I chose to go with First Festival purely because they have an optional activity on offer which I think rivals La Tomatina itself.
It’s called the ‘Water & Wine’ festival and is held in Requena another small town also close to Valencia (which First Festival uses as a base for La Tomatina).
My friends posing inside the ring
Basically the evening begins with watching bold men try to taunt a bull inside a ring and not get taken out by it (it’s not a bullfight and no bulls are harmed).
It seemed like most of the town came out to watch and the atmosphere was so exciting!
Typically, my adventourous friend decided to jump in with them literally the second we walked through the door but luckily he walked away unscathed.
Afterwards, all the spectators spill out into the streets where multiple small walking orchestras march through Requena as the public follows along dancing and drinking.
From up above residents throw buckets of water from their windows or use hoses to drench revellers down below which means you end up soaking wet but it is SO MUCH FUN!
Live music, free wine and a one sided water fight make for a pretty enjoyable evening (although when you get back to your hostel in the early hours and have to wake up for La Tomatina soon after..not so much fun!)
First Festival was well run and I would book with them again however I’d probably go the hotel option if I had to choose again since the hostel they used in Valencia was pretty average!
La Tomatina Rules
There is a slippery, fat greased pole with a ham on top – once someone climbs this and grabs the ham, a blast will sound and the festival begins.
You must squish your tomato before throwing, to avoid potentially fatal injuries.
Nothing may be thrown except for tomatoes.
Once the second blast sounds you must stop your throwing of the tomatoes.
Decide how involved you want to be. I started out being right in the thick of things and half an hour before the festival even started I literally couldn’t even move. Now picture trucks of tomatoes driving down the street already packed with people..well you can imagine you get pretty nicely squished. I decided to move a bit further back so I could a) breathe and b) not die from being trampled on. Some people love being in the midst of it but if you’re a little further out you can still get a decent share of tomato throwing done without the immense claustrophobia.
Goggles – some people wore them and there are two reasons for this besides the obvious of protecting your eyes from flying tomatoes. I heard of a few people after the festival ending up with pink eye or conjunctivitis because of contact with tomatoes which had been on the ground and therefore had been exposed to all kinds of humanly fluids (to put it nicely – when there’s thousands of people trapped in a small space with little chance of leaving you do the math as to how they get rid of all that alcohol they’ve consumed on the way to La Tomatina). However, goggles can also get steamed up/foggy really easily and with thousands of people around it would be quite hard to see properly, so the choice is yours on this!
Bring water with you. It’s the middle of summer and if you’re right in the thick of things and feeling the heat thanks to the weather and the sheer amount of people pressed up against you, it’s definitely handy to have on you already.
Have an agreed meeting spot for after the festival. It’s quite likely you’ll get separated from your group at some point and finding each other afterwards when everyone is covered and hard to recognise may prove difficult. You’ll want to meet up to get hosed down/cleaned off and grab a bite to eat from one of the street vendors after the festival so organise a place to find each other before the fight starts just in case since bringing a phone/any valuables is not really advised unless you’ll be using a GoPro. I didn’t have one at the time so I just took a disposable camera (they still exist!) and got some average shots but really it’s an experience you’ll never forget even without photos to capture it!