Everyone around the world is familiar with the running of the bulls in Pamplona Spain during the festival de San Fermin that takes place between the 6th and the 14th of July each year. The origin dates back to when farmers would herd their bulls through the street to market.
With bullfighting a popular sport in Spain young men would run in front of the bulls to test their bravado emulating their favorite matadors.
Today thousands of people from around the world converge on this small Basque city thanks in part to Earnest Hemingway who made the running of the bulls in Pamplona famous buy writing about it in his classic 1926 book The Sun Also Rises.
Many Americans and British converge on Pamplona for what for them will be a week of excessive drinking and partying with the chance to dress up in the traditional costume of white shirt and pants with a red waistband and neckerchief along with a rolled up copy of the days newspaper to swat the bulls with if necessary.
During the festival it is normal to party all night staying up till the bull run in the morning before sleeping all day and repeating the night time frivolities all over again. In order to run with the bulls you must be at least 18 years of age, and also not be intoxicated.
The first running commences on the morning of the 7th when after the firing of a rocket at 8am to signal that the coral has been open with a second rocket announcing that six bulls have been released to run the 826 metres along the cobblestone street to the bullring which once the bulls and the rest of the herd (The bulls run with nine steers that help to lead them to the bullring) a further two rockets are set off announcing that the herd are all in the ring.
In all the whole event takes about four minutes from start to finish and is televised nationally around Spain.
Getting to Pamplona
If you are arriving from Europe the two nearest airports are Bilbao from where you will either have to hire a car or take the bus or from Zaragoza a high-speed AVE train for which it is recommended you book in advance.
If you are arriving from outside of Europe, fly into Madrid, and from the airport take the metro to Atocha metro station from where you can catch a high-speed AVE train to Pamplona a journey time of only three hours.
Where to Stay
During the festival getting a hotel room or finding a place to stay is extremely expensive instead stay in one of the nearby towns, but make sure you can get into Pamplona before 8am or do what everyone else does and stay up all night returning to your accommodation after the run is over.
If however money is no object try to book a room at Hotel Palacio Guendulain. Located in the centre of the old-town this 18th century home had been tastefully converted into a 25 room hotel. If, however, you’re planning to travel with a few friends or the whole family, it may be worth considering renting an apartmtent or even a villa. There are some very good deals available to specialist websites like this one. They provide great value for money and you can feel like home.
Since running with the Bulls is highly dangerous we recommend that you watch the event, but are not foolish enough to participate. In 2012 two Britons and an American were gorged by a bull, and in total fifteen people have died in the event since 1910.
Dan Wilson is an avid sailor who occasionally writes about his travel on various travel blogs.