This festival accidentally began in 1944 when it was supposed that two boys were having a rift in the street and began to throw the tomatoes that were fresh from harvest beside them, at each other. Other boys caught on, joined in and somehow grew into the annual event which we know as la Tomatina.
The tomato festival has grown so much in international popularity that in 2013, the organisers have ticketed the event, limiting the capacity to 23,000 people as numbers were reaching upwards of 40,000 in the years prior!
We recommend biting the bullet and doing this festival by tour. Not only do you save on accommodation, as cheap dorm beds prices reach $70AUD around La Tomatina, but the drop off and pick up from the festival is organised for you.
Busabout Europe offers 1N/2D, 2N/3D and 5N/5D La Tomatina camping packages. Feel free to review our Busabout Tomatina experience.
Emerging from the Busabout bus, we, a hoard of sleepy travellers, unravel into the streets on Bunol in Spain. It’s the last Wednesday in August and there is only one reason why you would be here and that’s to join in the World’s biggest food fight, Tomatina Fiesta.
The locals have obviously done this before; Street hawkers brave the intense heat selling goggles, sunglasses and swimming caps to unsure festival goers. Feeling the pressure that this event could be more vicious than anyone imagined a queue begins to form for these protective goods. it starts to dawn on me that this could get gnarly. Unless you have done Tomatina Fiesta before, I don’t think you can fully comprehend what this tomato festival fully entails.
Bars are thumping, the energy is building and the beer kegs are draining; The town has begun to fill up. Narrow converging streets lead the masses to the centre square. Again the locals have come prepared; Their three story apartment blocks are blanketed by tarpaulins from top to bottom. Thin rectangles have been cut out and replaced by mesh promising the homeowners a prime view of the antics without the mess.
The closer we walk to the square, the thicker the crowd is, the bigger the party gets. 22,000 tickets have been sold this year. You can feel the vivacity of the crowd reverberate off the street walls. “oh lay, oh lay-o-lay-o-lay…” The anthems grow louder. Steam is rising up from the narrow streets. It’s a scorching 39 degrees and it’s barely 10 o’clock. Sangria falls like rain stinging my eyes as I try to catch some in my mouth. I look around to see a sea of mouths like mine gasping for the tinto verano. Sweet and sticky turns to fresh water as the neighbours soak the pulsating crowd from above with hoses. A thin mist enlivens the crowds and a loud roar of gratification fills the city centre. Buckets of water blast me from behind cooling my parched skin. I am fully immersed within the bustle and vitality of the festival. Once you are in it is virtually inescapable – but why would you want to leave?
Beach balls float by above my heads as does shards of spaghetti; anything goes. Hands high above our heads, clapping to the energetic rhythms and chants our excitement grows. There is no sign of tomatoes anywhere. Smack bang in the centre square a pole rises 4 meters high topped with a leg of ham. No one can reach it. Teams of trying contestants wriggle, hoist, launch themselves up but to no prevail. In tradition this was the initiation to the festival. Once the ham was retrieved, the tomato fight can begin.
“BOOM!” A cannon cracks. An eager roar from the crowd follows. The food fight has begun. Truck after truck filled to the brim with tomatoes emerges splitting the street party in two. Guards push the dense crowd into the town walls to make some sort of thoroughfare. Moulding to the person next to me I manage to keep my head above the crowd to see the first tomato dump.
Goggles on, game on.
Event minions riding high in the trucks pelt down the 40 metric tons of tomatoes one after another. We are getting thrashed. It is complete mayhem. Red muck is flying everywhere, you cannot escape. I wipe my eyes clear and is immediately replaced by more. Squished within my hair I gather what tomato substance I can and throw it somewhere. Pelting my neighbours and them me, it’s an endless red brawl. As more and more tomatoes join the throngs the deeper the street slush. Ankle deep in passata, the fight intensifies. Cheeky lads use buckets to pour the puree down Becks pants, what can you do but do the same back.
We are compacted together like a tube of wafer sticks; I fight to hold my ground but the crowd whisks me along. I manage to keep my head above the masses and escape the steaming thick air, coagulating within the asphalt sphere but then I open myself up to the vicious onslaught.
There is no mercy.
Tomato seeds have began to settle on my skin, their membrane shrivelling under the midday sun. They are off gassing. The sticky crowd, trapped within the city walls are unperturbed my the suffocating aroma which encompasses them. Individual seeds swarm and wriggle upon your skin and begin to itch, just as you’re about to be completely overwhelmed the cannon sounds for a second time and a breath of mercy is taken by all. It is over.
I look around at the flowing red gutters, the red walls and the red people. What once were clean are now in shambles; a work of admiration. I walk off past the locals who have already started up their hoses to begin the wash down. All around I see faces mirroring mine; Shared smiles embody a communal sense of achievement.