La Tomatina, in the town of Buñol in the Valencia region of Spain, is the food fight you always dreamed of but never thought you’d be allowed to have. Tens of tons of over-ripe tomatoes are thrown, mashed and squished in the streets of this usually sleepy town, all in the space of one hour. Guys get their shirts off and women wear white for maximum effect. By the end of the day the streets have turned to tomato soup.

The history of La Tomatina isn’t known but our favourite explanation is that pissed off townspeople attacked city councilmen with tomatoes during a celebration.

La Tomatina is part of a week-long festival featuring music, parades, dancing, and fireworks. The festival is always held on the last day of August so it’s not too late to book a La Tomatina trip! But make sure you read our guide first…

Essential kit for La Tomatina

Belongings will not be spared in the soppy crush of 30,000 people in the heart of Buñol, so it’s best to show up with just the bare essentials. If you’re passing through, leave your pack in a locker at Valencia station. Failing that, a friendly local may be willing to store your things until the fight is over.

Here’s how to be well prepared.

Goggles: contrary to popular belief, they’re useless. They just steam up and get splattered in tomato, so you can’t see your enemy.

Board shorts:
Easy to clean and quick to dry. Handy, since you won’t be allowed back onto the trains caked in tomato or sopping wet. Ladies, a one-piece swimming costume or sports bra and tank top are a good idea to save your blushes in case you end up in the circle of feral men intent on stripping everyone bare.

Footwear: Cheap plimsolls or other covered shoes that will protect your toes in the muck and you will happily part with afterwards.

Camera: Memories are good, but photographic evidence is a darn sight better. The hardy compact underwater digital ones work well, as do the disposable ones. You can also buy waterproof covers for regular cameras.

Your valuables: Try wrapping up the essentials in a zip lock bag and tucking them into a wrist band, undies, or bra.

La Tomatina

Frequently asked questions on La Tomatina

Am I going to emerge disrobed from the carnage? Not if you avoid the small faction of dickheads.

Am I going to get crushed? Probably, since 30,000 people have packed into an area with the dimensions of east London’s back lanes.

Will my eyes burn with tomato acid? Possibly, but there’s ample water around.

Essential information on going to La Tomatina

WHEN TO GO: La Tomatina takes place on August 25.
GETTING THERE: Fly from London to Valencia, the closest airport.
GETTING AROUND: Trains and buses run regularly to Buñol from Valencia.
VISAS: South Africans will need a Schengen visa.
CURRENCY: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.20 EUR.
LANGUAGE: Spanish.
GOING OUT: A bottle of beer costs about €3.
ACCOMMODATION: Dorm beds in Valencia are around €18 but are booked up well in advance. You might have better luck joining a tour.

Now read this:
Destination guide: La Tomatina
Vent your frustrations at La Tomatina
La Tomatina – while you’re there

Words: Rebecca Kent