Date of stay: 9th July 2009, 4 days
Where you stayed: Campsite near Pamplona
Travelled with: Group of friends
Tour or pre planned: Pre Planned
Every year between July 6-14, Pamplona comes alive to the San Fermin festival, otherwise known as the Running of the Bulls. There is a buzz all day long around the town with music, beer and thousands of people dressed in the festival colours of white clothing with a red scarf for a belt and a red neck tie.
For each of the 7 days the bulls are released early in the morning for the run that winds through the streets before entering the bull ring. At 8am a rocket is fired to signal that the gates on the bull pen are opened, and a second rocket is fired to signal that all of the 6 bulls and 6 steers are out and on the course. The runs usually only last for a matter of minutes, but the chaos during this time amongst the crowd grows and grows.
The runners are held back by rows of police at the start. Wooden barriers run along the side of the course and provide convenient exit points for runners in trouble. A lot of people carry a rolled up copy of the days newspaper to use as a way of distracting bulls and also to give them a tap as they run pass. Every runner seems to have their own tactics and advice to share, but ultimately for those that complete the run, this will mean entering the bull ring. Once inside small bulls are released that chase the runners around the middle of the arena, tossing the slowest into the air.
To get into the run make sure you are there early and don't have any lose items, backpacks, cameras or appear too drunk to police, or you will be chucked off the course for your own safety. For spectators try and find something to climb up onto in the streets as the crowds will make it almost impossible to see anything.
The event is huge with the Spanish and the media with pages and pages from newspapers dedicated to the runs describing the bulls and all sorts of useless statistics about the runs. Slow motion replays of the days events are shown on tv. Injuries do occur and in fact somebody was killed in the runs while I was there. If you plan to take part in one of the runs, the biggest piece of advice that I can give is to walk from start to finish along the course the day before to get a feeling for what you’re getting yourself in for and without any bulls chasing you. While running, pick the exit points in the fences in case you get caught in a spot of trouble and need to make a hasty retreat.
Of course not everybody agrees with the activities that take place. I would still urge people to head to the festival to take part, but maybe not enter the bull ring for the final events. The atmosphere in Pamplona is one not to miss, and in the evenings the fireworks are a great way to chill out after a long day in the sun.
Points to highlight: Make sure you take white trousers and t-shirt, then buy a cheap red scarf and neck tie at any corner store when you get there. You will fit right into the crowds especially if doing the run. Read all the rules and advice about the run, to give yourself every advantage you can. I've attached some images below.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your accommodation: Yes (Campsite, just outside of Pamplona)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5