"Surviving the Bull" Top 5 Page for this destination Pamplona by Roadquill

Pamplona Travel Guide: 239 reviews and 644 photos

When running like hell is having a good time!

I am getting too old for this stuff........

Like the guys jumping from the bull. And that is just one of the little 600 pound play bulls in the bullring after the run. Note the guys hanging on to the backs of some of the guys clinging to the wall.... or the feet of the guy who has plunged head first over the wall....

Six years ago you could not convince me that I would have run with the bulls in Pamplona. Since then I have gone four times, in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and again in 2011 iand will most likely do it again. I have tried to provide some insight from getting there, to eating, drinking, sleeping and partying. Hope to see you there as I am going again.

I have flown into Madrid a couple of days before the one hour flight to Pamplona as well as simply made a connection flight, but that makes for a long day from California. A few days in Madrid are necessary to aclimate one to fiestas at night and siestas in the afternoon. You can take the high speed train, but it is not much cheaper and takes four hours. You can also drive. It's about a five hour drive.

I stayed at the Hotel Leyre, near the Bull Ring and close to the action, but far away so that the reveling extremus was not within earshot and several times at the Hotel Albret, a 10 minute bus ride to the festivities.

You have to get up early to run or watch the running. If you want to run, get to the staging area at Plaza del Ayuntamiento no later than 7 am. The only thing you are allowed to run with are your clothes. So don't bring your backpack, camera, etc. Just before the 8 am start time, they let loose the runners to take their respective positions on the 900 yard course.

A rocket goes off at 8 am announcing they have let loose the six bulls and six steers. Another rocket announces that last of the beasts have left the holding pen and the third when the last bull makes it into the bullring.

After the first rocket there will be a surge of runners several hundred yards in front of the bulls. These runners have no huevos. You must wait until you see the whites of de bulls eyes, then you join in. Hopefully, the first herd will avoid you and you can run on their heels and follow them into the bullring.

While you are running, there are not rules. It is every man or woman for himself. Bear in mind the bulls are designed for kicking human ass. So while you are running as fast as you can, other runners are down on the groung and you are jumping them, while you are looking behind you for the bulls while you are knocking down slow pokes in front of you, while other runners are knocking you down because they think you are a slow poke. There are piles of runners littering the run. You have to go around or over them. Got the picture? If you get knocked down and Senor. Ole is bearing down on you, stay down.

It is over in 2-3 minutes, unless you are fortunate in getting into the bullring. After the fighting bulls are herded through the ring, they let out the 800 pound play bulls for half an hour. The picture above is just when they released one of the playbulls.

After the run is over, then you have to prepare yourself for 22 hours of partying.

There are many music programs going on almost non-stop. Pick up traditional Spanish for an hour in one square, then walk a few blocks for some pop at another. A blocks further will be a rock and roll group. Then there is jazz and even local Basque songs. Plus out of every bar there is music blaring and dancing and swaying.

What Bullfight?

The whole reason for running the bulls is to get them from the outskirts of the old town and into the bullring so that they can suffer an ignominious fate of being shafted for human entertainment later that evening.

There are two ways to see the bullfight. One, in the regular sections of the stands and two, "under the sun". I am an "under the sun" kind of guy.

Your expectations may be a bit confused when those sitting around you are doned in hospital whites or plastic ponchos over their festival attire and carrying a bucket of sangria. Reasons for this are soon made evident. Social protocol whilst "under the sun" is to dip your cup into your bucket of sangria, drink 2/3's of your cup, and then pitch the rest on those below you. Who in turn, dip their cup into their bucket of sangria, drink 1/2, then pitch theirs upwards. For the most part, all done with great fun and jest. And to be bonked with a wayward slice of orange or apple is cause for celebration.

And someplace along the line six bulls have been dispatched and it is time to head back to the old town and party some more.

and in the evening.....

Have camera, make new friends. These "mucho guapas senoritas" insisted on being in my photograph para mi amigos. Please pardon my Spanish. They demonstrate the acceptable method of laying out their port-a-bar in The Plaza de Castellano one evening.

For more information on the running, go to www.sanfermin.com.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Undescribable fun
  • Cons:The smell of beer in certain heavy party streets excreted from various orifces.
  • Last visit to Pamplona: Jul 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (51)

Comments (18)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Apr 29, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    Karl, you have had great experiences in Pamplona....Thanks for your amazing story!...

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Apr 21, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    Karl, interesting and very comprehensive page about Pamplona here We will be in the area at the beginning of May and Pamplona might be on our list. Luckily the Festival won't be on at that time. :-)

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    I like "I am getting too old for this stuff........" and the fact that you dared appreciate Rejones.
    Beware of the antitaurinos!

  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    i cannot BELIEVE that you do this. i would drop the 25 Eu and watch from safety and comfort. Meanwhile, great page - good images, excellent reading. n.

  • BorneoGrrl's Profile Photo
    Aug 29, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Hi Karl. Thanks for the wishes. You'll definitely be missed in Paris. Well, if you fancy a trip to the Far East (from where you are, it'll be heading west. lol), there's gonna be 2 VT meets planned for Malaysia and the Philippines in Dec/Jan

  • alza's Profile Photo
    Jul 17, 2011 at 6:57 PM

    Glad to see Cezur Minor mentioned, I stayed at a pilgrim's place there on first day of my Camino! There was a huge lawn filled with wild flowers. Love Pamplona, will be back to read more. Cheers!

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
    Nov 16, 2010 at 2:38 AM

    was in Pmaplona, seeing the Bull RIng, Bronze life size art peices and with Hemmingway's bust , was wondering . . . ;-))) ;-)))

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    I guess running around the town keeps you in shape for all those ski jaunts you take. This is a nice presentation of the event and sites.

  • lomi's Profile Photo
    Aug 3, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Very interesting tips, particularly the food market. Am in Pamploma in August.

  • JessieLang's Profile Photo
    Dec 6, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    Great page, although I think you are nuts! (Deliberately getting in the way of large animals with horns isn't my idea of fun.)

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