Guide to La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain

Sure, you could travel to music festivals, art festivals, and flower festivals all over the world. But why do any of that when you can go to a festival that gives you free rein to throw juicy, red, ripe tomatoes at total strangers? 

La Tomatina is often billed as the ultimate food fight, bringing together thousands of people from around the world to the tiny town of Buñol in Spain. But why? Keep reading to find out — and learn more about how you can participate in the festival. 

What is La Tomatina?

La Tomatina is a festival that, according to La Tomatina Tours, began as a total accident in 1945 during an otherwise typical parade through the town square. During the parade, there was a scuffle between an onlooker and a performer, and townspeople grabbed some produce from a nearby stand and began throwing tomatoes at them. And, like you probably learned in middle school, these townspeople learned that throwing food can be pretty darn fun. disputes this story, noting the origins of the festival are a little bit murky, saying it could have been this or a spontaneous fight that started it all, but either way, at least now we all get to enjoy the fun. They continued with the tomato tossing until it was banned in the early 1950s, and in 1957, the food fight was brought back and officially dubbed La Tomatina. And over the years, it’s become a rather popular event, so tickets are now limited to 20,000 participants. 

Things kick off at 11 a.m. local time when a single firework goes off, and trucks dump more than 100 tons of tomatoes on the ground throughout the square. It becomes a mad dash to grab and toss as many as possible over the next hour. Then, once the hour is up, another firework erupts, and all tossing must end. 

There is, however, one more part of this festival that happens just prior to the first firework. That’s when the palo jabón, a greased pole with a ham on top, is hoisted into the air, and participants can try their best to reach the top before the tomato fight begins. If the ham is retrieved before 11 a.m., the tomato tossing can start early.

The festival has also grown into much more and now involves a week’s worth of festivities, including musical acts, dancing, more fireworks, and a few other parades travelers can enjoy. The festival always takes place on the last Wednesday of August, meaning in 2024, it’s on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Want to bring small kids along? The town has a dedicated event for kids ages four to 14 at the main square of Buñol, held on the last Saturday of August, with the mini tomato battle going for about 30 minutes. 

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Where is La Tomatina celebrated?

La Tomatina takes place in Buñol, a small town in the province of Valencia. While the town is certainly famed for the festival, there is still more to see and do here, including visiting its El Salvador Church, its 13th-century castle, its various public green spaces like San Luis Park and Turche Cave, and its local restaurants.

To get to Buñol, visitors typically make their way to Valencia via its airport, train station, or roads. Travelers can then hop on a train or a bus or drive the 24 miles from Valencia to Buñol (the train takes a little over an hour, while driving takes about 45 minutes, depending on traffic). 

Once in town, it’s best to park your car and make your way around on foot, as the narrow streets make it difficult to drive, and everything is in close proximity anyway. 

It’s important to remember that this is a really small town, so if you plan to attend the festival, booking one of its few accommodations early is essential. There’s also a limited number of vacation rentals available on sites like Airbnb, but travelers can also opt to simply head back on the bus or train to Valencia, which is home to many more accommodation options.

How to Celebrate Like a Local

The festival’s website has shared a list of rules to follow to help travelers celebrate like a local. Those rules include always respecting others, noting, “While La Tomatina is a spirited and lively affair, it’s essential to respect the space and boundaries of your fellow participants. Avoid targeting individuals who are not actively participating in the tomato fight, and be mindful of those around you to prevent accidents or injuries.” 

The rules also state that “no foreign objects” are allowed as they could cause injury to others. “Stick to tomatoes and leave the props at home,” the event’s rules page added, noting to also always follow the instructions of officials to stay safe. 

Importantly, the rules also state that you should always crush your tomatoes slightly before tossing them for safety and maximum juice. “To minimize the risk of injury, it’s customary to squish or crush the tomatoes in your hand before throwing them,” the rule page states. “This softens the impact and reduces the likelihood of causing harm to others.”

The rule page also added rule five: “Have fun.” It reads, “Remember, you’re part of a tradition that spans decades and brings people together from all corners of the globe.”

Keep the local vibe going by sticking around for a few days to experience the rest of the festival and chat with a few residents over wine and tapas, if you can. 

How to Get Tickets

There are several ticket options available for anyone hoping to visit during the festival. First, travelers can get a simple entry ticket for €15 (about $17) that just gets them access to the fight. Or, travelers can add some optional upgrades, including an accessories upgrade for €35 (about $38), which comes with some rather handy goggles. Travelers can also opt for the everything-included ticket, which comes with access to the Tomatina battle, a commemorative T-shirt, and access to the after-party. See all ticketing options at 

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What to Wear

As La Tomatina Tours suggests, it’s prudent to wear something you don’t mind throwing away later because whatever you decide to wear will get absolutely wrecked. However, the site added that many people choose to wear white to showcase the “brilliant red of the tomatoes.” It also suggested that wearing a bathing suit under your outfit can be a more comfortable look, and some people even wear goggles to protect their eyes from the acidic fruit. Just make sure to wear stable footwear that you don’t mind getting very dirty. Flip-flops and sandals aren’t recommended, as you will need some grip once the tomatoes start flying. 

Know Before You Go

Pack the right stuff.

Make sure to bring a dedicated outfit just for the tomato fight that you’re totally fine throwing away after (shoes, socks, and maybe even undies included). Make sure to also bring along a change of clothes for after the fight so you don’t need to travel back to your hotel in tomato-wet clothes. (You can book a locker space ahead of the festival to keep your things safe.)

Look and listen.

The tomato fight is, without question, tons of fun, but it can also be a bit chaotic. Make sure to keep your ears and eyes open for festival staffers and listen to any and all directions given to you before, during, and after the tomato fight. 

Follow the rules.

Do not do anything that will put yourself or others in harm’s way. Keep all other objects — including water bottles, keys, and jewelry — in a safe space to collect after the food fight. 

Stay hydrated.

Speaking of water bottles, it’s a good idea to have one handy for pre- and post-tomato fight hydration. Temperatures can get very hot and dry in Spain during the summer months, so take a few sips, then go ahead and throw a tomato like a champion. 

Arrive early.

The community gets very, very crowded during the main festival day, so if possible, try to arrive early. This not only ensures you’re in a prime position for the tomato throwing but also gives you a chance to get to know Buñol a little better. 

Respect the locals.

Remember that Buñol is a small town and that people actually live here. So keep the fight within bounds, stop when the second firework goes off, and keep your mess contained, if you can.

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