There’s simply nothing on Earth like watching people running wildly through narrow, twisting streets among 15 charging bulls. If you’ve never been to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, you’re missing out on one of the largest, most adrenaline-filled parties on the planet.
When to go, where to stay
Some argue that the first Pamplona bull run happened in the early 13th century, but the specific origins of this week-long festival are cloudy. The modern bull run has been part of the San Fermin Festival, which happens each year between July 6 and July 14. The bulls run on seven consecutive mornings, beginning July 7.
Eager attendees should book their hotel or arrange to rent an apartment as early as possible. During the festival, Pamplona swells from a population of under 200,000 to 1 million people, so space is limited. It’s not uncommon to see visitors napping in the parks around Pamplona, but savvy visitors should shell-out for a private room to avoid the precarious combination of alcohol, strangers and public snoozing. And unless you’re into around-the-clock revelry, don’t book a room downtown.
The spectacle in Pamplona is truly unforgettable. The bull run lasts only a few minutes, ending shortly after 8 a.m. After the run, visitors enjoy a range of outdoor events and attractions – during the San Fermin Festival, you can see parades, peruse offerings from local vendors or take a siesta before the evening bull fights begin.
Attending the San Fermin Festival can be an exciting, culturally rich and outrageously good time. It can also be dangerous, due to the huge crowds, intoxicated revelers and, of course, the horned beasts raging through the cobblestone streets. If you choose to go, consider the following to play it safe:
· Watch the wine. Drinking is a large part of this fiesta, but don’t attempt to run with the bulls if you’re intoxicated – that’s against the rules. Stay hydrated and eat well to stay healthy.
· Get in and get out. There are plenty of opportunities to watch the bull runs from afar. You’ll find the streets lined with packed viewing boxes to give you a bird’s-eye view of each morning’s crowded, crazed run. If you decide you simply must take part, follow the festival’s running guidelines and plan a short route ahead of time. Enter through an official gate, and exit through the next available gate to keep your run short and safe.
· Keep covered. It’s not uncommon for people to get shoved, trampled, bruised, or even gored during the week-long festivities. Play it safe by staying with other spectators, and make sure you’ve got international medical insurance to keep yourself covered in the event of an injury.
Above all else, it’s important to keep in mind that the Pamplona bull run is essentially a neighborhood festival that the whole world attends. Be respectful of local customs, the people who are working this enormous event and enjoy the festivities – in moderation.