La Tomatina: Did You Know About This Unusual Spanish Festival?

La Tomatina festival in 2013 in Bunol, Spain.
La Tomatina festival in 2013 in Bunol, Spain. Image by Jim_Filim/Depositphotos

If you happen to be in Spain during the last Wednesday of August, you can experience the country’s messiest and most interesting festival. La Tomatina is a tomato-throwing spectacle held in Buñol, about 25 miles (40km) west of Valencia. The main event happens in the city’s main square and Calle del Cid.

At around 9 am, a large greased pole with a ham attached to it is hoisted up into the air, and the crowds struggle against each other to put it down. At precisely 11 am, regardless of whether anyone managed to grab the ham (which usually doesn’t happen), a cannon is fired and over 120 tonnes of ripe tomatoes are brought on trucks for the waiting crowd. For the following hour, everyone joins in a cheerful and chaotic tomato battle until a second cannon fire signals the end of the game.

The quirky tradition of La Tomatina began in 1946 but it’s not certain exactly why. In any case, it’s definitely something unique to witness and get involved in if you’re in the area. If you want the full La Tomatina experience, stay in Buñol for the week-long celebration, which involves music, dancing, parades, and fireworks.