By K.P. our resident food critic Paella is one of Spain’s national joys (as you probably know) and is hands down the one dish you HAVE to wrap your mouth…
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La Tomatina Need-To-Knows
20 things you need to know about SPAIN’S FAMOUS TOMATO FIGHT.
What is La Tomatina?
Spain’s tomato fight festival, the world’s biggest food fight, or a yearly battle fought between about 40,000 people and 40 tonnes of tomatoes in the small Valencian village of Buñol. This isn’t a battle of organised teams, or armies, but a free-for-all every-person-for-themselves wild hurling of salad fruit that takes place along the village’s narrow, centre street. The fight is a part of Buñol’s town fiesta, which is the day that townsfolk traditionally get together in celebration of their little part of the world.
Stoke Travel heads down to Valencia every year for La Tomatina, and in addition to the festival and the food fight, we explore Valencia city, hang out on the beach next to our campsite, try the local food, party wherever, whenever, and however we can, and really make a nice little adventure out of the occasion.
Where is La Tomatina?
Spain! But more specifically a village called Buñol, which is in the Valencia region, about half an hour from the city, and towards the end of the highway from Madrid to the Mediterranean Coast. Once in Buñol, the fight itself is down the hill from the bus and train station, and is fought on the street that runs from one end of the village, through the town and the town square, to the other end of the village. The street that the fight goes down on is fenced off, and only people who have fight bracelets, and who have been thoroughly checked for bottles of booze and other things that could be used as projectiles.
Stoke Travel’s La Tomatina camp is about 10 minutes outside Valencia, on the coast on the south-side of the city. We’re literally across the road from the Mediterranean Sea, and alongside the lakes and rice fields where paella was born.
When is La Tomatina?
The last Wednesday of every August. At around 10am people will start trying to crawl to the top of a greased up pole to grab onto a ham, more about that later, and if someone secures the cured pig’s leg, the battle begins. If nobody grabs that ham by 11am a cannon will fire and trucks will begin to file into the street, laden with tomatoes, aka projectiles to be. From then, the trucks will continue to make their way along the street, with people in the trucks hurling tomatoes out at the revellers, and also dumping their entire loads at certain points along the road. One hour later, at midday, two cannon shots will fire and the fight is over – resist the urge to keep on throwing. Then the town will then start cleaning the streets with big hoses, and you will make your way down to the river to rinse off, and then to one of the village’s many street parties for a little rage, before we head back to the beach.
We get started at our beachside camp a couple of days earlier, and spend that time teaching you how to cook paella, enjoying the Mediterranean seashore, dancing to our DJs and bands, and exploring Valencia city. Oh, and the night of the tomato fight is when we head to the official La Tomatina afterparty, which is a real rage.
Who will be at La Tomatina?
Who won’t be? You will be, we will be, your new best friends will be…
And so will 40,000 (edit: they now sell only 22,000 tickets to the tomato fight, so, like, book!) other tomato fighters and party animals and lovers of holidays in sunny Spain. The crowd at La Tomatina is made up of locals from the village, from Valencia and around Spain, and travellers from all over the world, with large representations of Australians and Kiwis, for some reason, as well as Chinese and Indian tourists – a really international crowd. Also, the tomato fighters are mostly, but not exclusively, on the younger side, with 18-35s really making up the bulk of the crowd.
Stoke Travel will have guests staying with us from all over the world, young travellers and expats and study abroad students and backpackers and party lovers of all types. Like with all of our festivals, if they’re staying with Stoke you can guarantee that they’ll be fun.
La Tomatina history
These things are often shrouded in mystery and history, as the fiestas of Spain can go back centuries if not more, but with La Tomatina we know a bit about how it began. So it was back in 1945 and during one of the more traditional festivals, when some GIANTS and BIG HEADS were parading through the city and fell. Now we don’t mean literally giants, or people with big heads, but regular Spanish folk with giant costumes on and massive masks – it’s a thing here. Ok, the giants and big heads fell, as legend has it, because some sprightly little scamps were running around and tripped the giants up, and timber they went a crashing down and into the people watching the parade and some market stalls and so on.
Well! In response to this trashing of their parade and market and village square the furious villagers ran to one of the crumpled stalls and started grabbing, and then hurling, handfuls of ruined tomatoes, tomato upon tomato, at the fallen giants and big heads and at the scamps who’d tripped them, and what started as an aggressive act quickly evolved into a rather fun event, with all and sundry throwing tomatoes with an abandon, breaking out like a pillow fight at a sleepover. Fun!
They continued this tradition the next year, recognising its light hearted frivolous and fun nature as a welcome distraction from the day-to-day life of being a small village in the Valenciana hills, during the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco. The throwing of the tomatoes is a way to expend one’s frustrations, but in a way that doesn’t result in any pain to the target, and that can be reciprocated, and so tomatoes fly to and fro and tensions ease and good times are had.
But in 1950 disaster struck and the good natured festival was halted but the fun hating dictatorship, a part of their war on fun. Boooo! But the good, fun loving villagers of Buñol continued to have tomato fights but were arrested by the po-po, and so then they protested by parading a coffin filled with tomatoes through town, after which the dictatorship relented, and in 1957 the festival was allowed again and the tomato throwers haven’t looked back.
How good is history!
Some La Tomatina traditions
Well the night before the tomato fight the locals have a party and a paella cooking competition, and then there’s the traditional climbing of the greasy pole to get at the ham, a tradition that is repeated across numerous traditional fiestas across Spain. There’s also the traditional throwing of the tomatoes, the traditional washing of oneself afterwards and the traditional pulling of tomato seeds out of one’s butt that occurs for days afterwards.
The patron saints of the event are St. Louis Bertrand (San Luis Bertràn) and the Mare de Déu dels Desemparats (Mother of God of the Defenseless), cool!
Stoke Travel’s traditions include our own paella cooking display and paella eating activity (known locally as “dinner”), our “ketchup party” that features DJs and bands and always happens the night before the fight, our traditional bloody mary on the morning of the event, and the traditional hangover we nurse after the trip (and then take with us to Ibiza).
What to wear to La Tomatina
Rule number one is to wear stuff that you can afford to lose. I’m not sure if you know, but this is a tomato fight, so you will be covered in tomato. And more than that, it’s more like being a living, breathing can of crushed tomato, bathing in it, so you will surely, certainly cover yourself in tomato pulp. So make sure your kit is disposable. In addition to that, you have to wear footwear, and we would say closed footwear, or at least sandals, or something like that, maybe Crocs, because they’re very practical and also it would be nice to have an excuse to throw them away. Some people also opt to wear swimming goggles to stop the pulp and tomato juice and its acids from getting into their eyes, but those goggles can get foggy and then you’re a blind target for tomato warriors.
The traditional outfit is white on white, so that when the fight is done you’ve got an all red ensemble. We think it was because back in the day when they didn’t have so many tomatoes you’d be able to see where the strikes had landed, but in this day and age of dozens of tonnes of tomatoes the end result is less a tomato fight and more a wrestling match in the world’s biggest bolognaise. Luckily for you, travellers without any white clothes, nor anything you really want to part ways with, Stoke Travel’s onsite store, Stoke Threads, sells traditional white outfits for next to nothing!
Is La Tomatina expensive?
You have to pay €25 to get into the tomato fight and then the rest is FREE! Throwing is free, getting hit is free, and most of all the tomatoes themselves are free and delivered by the truckload. But you have to get to Buñol from wherever you are, and you have to pay for somewhere to sleep at night, and for your food and all of these things, so depending on how hard you want to ball your stay can be either next to nothing, or a lot.
Now’s where we get to the Stoke Travel part, where a measly €90 a day will get you:
- Welcome drink on arrival.
- Your official La Tomatina ticket
- Private transfers to and from the tomato fight
- Open bar of unlimited beer and sangria open from 10:00 – 22:00
- Sleep-in boutique camping accommodation, in pre-pitched tent with mattress, sleeping bag, light and ear plugs.
- Access to all campsite facilities including pool, laundry and restaurant and it’s only a 5 min walk from the beach
- Hot bottomless brunch breakfast buffet spread with unlimited mimosas every morning. 8:00 – 11:00
- Coffee and tea station.
- Access to hot showers free of charge
- Festival info & tips
- With experienced guides to lead you through the mayhem
- Pop up bar in Bunol (La Tomatina site) with flowing wine to prepare you for the fight
So we don’t want to say that staying with us is by far the best option for you, but it obviously is. Check out the whole Stoke Travel La Tomatina package, here.
Where to stay for La Tomatina?
There isn’t much accommodation in Buñol, and given that the festivities start mid-morning and are done by noon you don’t really need to stay there. If you’re a diehard you can hit the party the night before, rage all night and then smash the fight. But that is hardcore. Almost everybody stays in Valencia and surrounds, and if they don’t have transport included they’ll make their own way by public transport, usually train, to Buñol and the fight.
Valencia has a bunch of hotels, hostels and Airbnbs, but nothing quite matches the vibe of staying with 100s of fellow travellers somewhere like the aforementioned Stoke Travel and our La Tomatina party campsite. You’ll be rolling deep with a squad of absolute legends and sleep well, and rage with us, and it’s cheaper than doing it yourself anyway, so seriously what are you waiting for?
How much are tickets to La Tomatina?
We already told you this, they’re €25! But if you stay with Stoke Travel they’re included, soooo….. You know what to do.
What to eat and drink at La Tomatina?
The local delicacy is paella, which comes from the Valencia region and is cooked out the front of pretty much every house and apartment building and in all the restaurants and backyards – they just love their paella down there! And they insist that the paella be cooked traditionally, which isn’t with seafood, but with chicken and rabbit and beans, yep yep. But don’t worry you can get a seafood paella no worries, as well as any number of combinations (we once had a duck, eel and shellfish one) and at Stoke we cook up a few different styles for y’all to wrap your trying buds around.
Valencia is also in and surrounded by different wine regions, so there are plenty of local drops to try, or hit our open bar that has cold tap beer and sangria in unlimited quantities for no extra cost to you, but only when you stay with Stoke Travel.
How to get to La Tomatina?
Well firstly you have to get yourself to Valencia, Spain, so depending on where you’re coming from that’s going to be by plane, train, bus, ferry or car. You could also walk, but it’s going to be hot. From Valencia we’re looking at a regional train to Buñol and then you can just walk on down to the tomato fight. Even if you drive to Valencia, it’s not really advised to drive to Buñol as it can be tough to park, there are thieves active, and you can’t have a sangria or beer or whatever because the police presence
LA TOMATINA ACCOMMODATION
As we’re pretty accommodating folk and want your tomato throwing experience to be as stress-free as possible, we can pre-erect tents, blow up mattresses and roll out sleeping bags ready for your arrival. Our kitchen crew are there to cook up a culinary storm each morning with our bottomless brunch and unlimited m so your stomachs are lined for the weekend’s drinking and antics, including a world-class paella the night before the fight. And as always, we’ll be hosting the best and biggest party outside of the party, and you’re all invited. There is a pool, bar and restaurant on site, and we’re less than five minutes walk from the beach. The Stoke Travel crew are expert tomato throwers and even better at having fun, and our campsite parties are legendary. Join in as much fun as humanly possible with open-minded international friends at La Tomatina Festival.
LA TOMATINA TOURS
Stoke Travel’s campsite is open from the 27th of August until the 31st. For your La Tomatina trip you can stay for the whole time, or for a minimum of two nights.
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