Travelers Guide to Running with the Bulls, Pamplona
Why take you life in your hands early on a July morning?
Join thousands of people each year who go for an early morning jog through the streets of Pamplona, chased by twelve wild bulls.
- One of the last great challenging adventures
- The world’s most completely dangerous festival in a sanitized world
- The chance to face nature without a safety net
- It can be completed in total safety but you still get a lifetime of bragging rights.
- Safer than walking around a rough area at night with a wallet full of money
- Join the festival two days earlier and run with the nudes, naked street jogging
- Experience the ultimate thrill.
In Pamplona every year between the 7th and 14th July the inhabitants celebrate the Festival of the town’s patron Saint Fermin by holding a bull fight. Every morning the bulls are herded from their temporary corral on the outskirts of town, through the streets to the bullring. During this time the young, crazy and drunk run the streets with the bulls as a show of strength, bravado and courage.
The race takes less than four minutes and covers a distance of half a mile so why would people travel all around the world for such a short time, first thing in the morning.
Pamplona was founded in 75 BC when the Roman General, Pompey established a winter camp in the area and is considered to have given his name to the town. Evidence has been unearthed to suggest that the wide valley surrounded by hills had long before been a popular site for nomadic tribes to stay.
After the fall of the Roman Empire there was a period of upheaval when control of the area changed hands many times. During this time it came under the rule of the Visigoths, Charlemagne and the Moors but still managed to retain a certain amount of freedom. Its site on the pilgrim trail to Santiago led to significant commercial development and became golden era for the town.
As part of the Spanish kingdom of Navarra it saw additional defenses and fortifications added during the 16th century and acted as a border outpost with France. The 18th century was another health time for the town and wealthy merchants and aristocrats moved to the area.
Today is has one of the highest standards of living in Spain and Pamplona’s city center is a much gentrified area. It is known as a friendly easy going city with a good education and health structure, with low crime rates.
Pamplona is a richly decorated town, its old center is full of classic Baroque architecture and an impressive civic center based around the plaza where the old bullring once stood.
The town is full of green spaces, tree-lined areas where people sit and relax during the warm summer months. The Calle Estafeta is another popular section of town where visitors will find lots of elegant shops and tasty restaurants
Running with the Bulls
The festival of running with the bulls is said to date back 600 years from when the cattle were brought to market and young men would prove their courage by running along side. The festival is also linked to the Pamplona’s patron saint, who died it is said, being dragged through the streets by a herd of bulls early one morning after a few too many beers.
Since the early 20th century the popularity of the festival has gradually grown, books like “The sun also rises” by Ernest Hemmingway in 1924 gave the event greater world publicity and with it tourists looking for the definitive rush.
These days the route its cordoned off with wooden fences to stop the animals running amok throughout the whole town center, which was apt to happen in years gone by. Just before the 8am start the runners all recite a benediction asking for the blessing of Saint Fermin and with the launching of a rocket the race starts.
With the launching of the second rocket the runners know that the bulls are on their way, and weighing on average 700 lbs, traveling at 15 miles an hour you do not want to get caught out.
The rules of the run say you must be over 18 year old, all competitors wear white tops, white pants and a red neckerchief. You are not allowed to enter the race if you are drunk and inexperienced foreigners many be moved to safer starting positions or pulled out of the crowd.
Running Safely with the Bulls
- Know your limits, if you are unsure you can start well ahead of the bulls, run the course and make it into the bullring before the animals arrive. And who will know where you started anyway.
- Starting in the middle guarantees meeting the bulls but by then the crowds will have thinned out and you should be okay.
- Starting at the corral gates means you are more likely to get some form of injury in the first chaotic seconds as the bulls are let loose.
- Corner tightly as the bulls will always run wide.
- If you fall down, stay down until its safe as you are less like to get a major injury if you cover your head and wait until the watching crowd give you the all clear.
- Don’t antagonize the bulls they will hurt you.
- Watch out for the other runners, they will hurt you too.
- Avoid running into dead ends and doorways where you can be hit.
- Don’t run the first day, watch the race and get a feel for it, also walk the course so you have an understanding of where you are going.
- Don’t get drunk.
- Get some sleep the night before.
Although the race is dangerous, the majority of injuries treated in the local hospitals are caused by collisions with other competitors, collisions with the cobbled pavements or collisions with walls and doorways.
Running with the Nudes
On the 5th July, two days before the Bull Run starts there has been a tradition established over the last eight year of organized protest against the cruelty of the Running of the Bulls and bull fighting in general.
The animal rights group PETA hold an annual Running of the Nudes. This starts at the same time as the Bull Run and follows the same route but with less danger and less clothes.
All the participants tend to wear the absolute minimum and quite often little more than a pair of plastic horns and a smile. Just like the Bull Run the Running of the Nudes attracts a wide international community and participants come from all over Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand to join in.
The run only lasts for half an hour first thing each day and the bullfights are not until later, so for the rest of your stay you are going to need to occupy your time. There are a number of churches and secular buildings you can look around to amuse yourself. Attractions like the impressive 14th century Cathedral, the monastery de Leyre or the Museum of Navarra situated in the old medieval hospital are all popular places for tourists to visit.
Pamplona is famous for its greenery and there are some really attractive parks around the town of which the old citadel and castle grounds are very picturesque. The star-shaped fortress is now hidden among the trees and bushes and leads into three further green parkland areas north of the castle.
Lovely rolling green hills, small villages and wooded hills will greet those visitors who decide to take a trip into the surrounding countryside. The region is renowned for its wine and oil production and there are organized tours around the olive groves and vineyards of the province. There are also other picturesque towns to tour all are within close proximity of Pamplona and tourists will thoroughly enjoy themselves wandering the streets of Estella, Puente de la Reina and Olite.
There is a lively and vibrant night scene around Pamplona and especially during the San Fermin Festival, with lots of entertaining bars and discos that provide the thousands of customers who visit Pamplona with a mixed array of music. From the strange sounds of Euro pop to recognizable modern bands and many bars playing traditional Spanish tunes. Between the tapas bars, restaurants and nightclubs there is plenty to entertain visitors any night of the week but the weekends is when it really heats up.
Pamplona is full of award winning traditional restaurants and even places that serve vegetarian menus. There are high-class establishments with great cuisine to the early morning dinner, snack bars offering diverse breakfast dishes. There is every from the grunge scene at La Cepa to the eloquence and style of Restaurante San Fermin.
Pamplona has a combination of the Mediterranean warm and cool Atlantic breeze; the summers are lovely and warm with average temperatures of 35° and clear blue skies. Winters can be cold and temperatures drop below zero in the middle of the cold months.
Entry Requirements of US Citizens
US visitors who are staying less than 90 days do not require a visa but will need to produce a valid passport and should make sure that this is not due to expire within the following six months
Pomplona is situated in the Basque region of Spain, here both Spanish and the Basque language Euskara and the local Navarrese local dialect are spoken.
The main sea and airport for the northeastern provinces of Spain are at Bilboa, which is 160km north of Pomplona. Travelers will find that there is no direct train connection and tourists will have to change trains at Castejon de Ebro or Tudela de Navarra. There is also a bus connection between Bilboa and Pamplona and its own local bus network is a reliable and cheap way of traveling around the area.
The green and white local busses offer good coverage around the town and represent good value for money. There is a regular day service and should you be out at night enjoying yourself there is also a limited nighttime service too.
The city also runs a large fleet of taxis and has taxi stands liberally scattered around the city, outside the railway station, the bus terminus and the shopping areas. Tourists looking to hire a car will find a number of agencies in town and you can also pick up bikes and scooters for short local journeys.
Cell Phones and Internet Connections
Cell phone coverage through out Spain is excellent; customers should make sure that they have their cell phones roving facility enabled. Internet connections and Wifi hotspots in Pamplona are good and many hotels have their own broadband and Wifi connections.
The currency in Spain is the Euro and there are many places tourists can change their dollars, the best exchange rates are normally found in the local banks but there are also Bureau de Change and plenty of internationally recognized ATMs.
Spanish electricity runs at 230v and if you have any devices not capable of using this voltage converter will be an essential addition to your packing.
Tipping is common practice in restaurants and bars, and also appreciated in the busy Oktoberfest beer tents, the normal practice is between 5 – 10% of the check or 1 Euro per beer. Quite often Europeans will round the bill up to the nearest large note, eg paying €30 for a €26 mea
ABOUT THE WATER
Although the taste of Spanish water may appear strange it is completely safe to drink it is still customary by locals and visitors a like to buy bottled water.