When you’re planning a trip to Valencia, you probably have beautiful buildings, quaint European cafes and famous cathedrals in mind. But if you happen to plan your trip to fall around the last Wednesday of August, and you’re willing to make the short journey to Buñol, it could go a lot differently than you planned… in a fantastic way. Don’t get me wrong, relaxing days spent strolling around the many Plazas of Valencia are amazing, but a day of craziness in between these can’t hurt anyone! Most people have probably seen pictures of the annual festival ‘La Tomatina’, but nothing can prepare you for the real thing. To have the best experience you can, here are a few tips and tricks on how to do it, and what to expect.
There are a few ways you can make your way to Buñol, but I would recommend buying tickets to the festival that include transport by coach. This way, when you have to make the sacrifice of leaving before the sun comes up, you can at least have a snooze while somebody else drives you. Also, when you make your way back to the coach covered in tomatoes later, you’ll be glad it’s not your hire car that you’re about to sit in!
The fun part:
As soon as you arrive in Buñol you’ll be swept up by the fun, carefree atmosphere. Make your way through the town, following the crowd down to the centre, maybe stopping for a sangria or two on your way down- at €3 a pint who could resist? In the centre there is a cordoned-off area where the actual tomato fight takes place, it’s a good idea to enter this around 8/8:30 in order to get a prime spot to watch the hilarity ensue that is the greasy pole challenge. Try to imagine the craziest, most ambitious members of the crowd attempting to climb over each other to reach the ham hanging from the top of a very greasy pole, and you can understand how there is never a dull minute whilst waiting for the tomatoes to arrive.
When they finally do arrive, driven down the street in 6 trucks, the crowd, armed with their goggles, lets go of all of their inhibitions and prepares to be pelted with over 100,000 tomatoes! While this might not sound like everybody’s cup of tea, the spirit of La Tomatina is absolutely contagious. You’ll find yourself completely immersed in the craziness, moving with the huge crowd, throwing tomatoes left, right and centre, and of course don’t forget the huge hoses that add cool water to the mix. Before you know it the final shot sounds to signify the end, you look around at your fellow Tomatina goers, covered head to toe in tomatoes, and you think ‘wow, that was the most fun I’ve ever had!’
Walking back through the streets, which are now flooded with what looks like marinara sauce, try to join a line of people waiting to be hosed down. If you’re not ready for the experience to be over, make sure you book tickets for one of the after parties to keep the fun going. If that’s all the fun you can handle for one day, grab a paella to go, and make your way back to your coach. I guarantee as you are leaving you will be in love with this festival. As an introduction to Spanish traditions, it definitely exceeds expectations! At no other event have I ever felt such an amazing atmosphere, or made such unforgettable memories. So, if you find yourself in Valencia at the end of next August, take a trip down to Buñol on the last Wednesday, and see for yourself that life in Valencia has even more to offer than a beautiful city and beaches.