Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he delights in running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.


The bull is the quintessential Spanish symbol, iconic throughout the country. And nowhere is the bull a greater part of local history and culture than at the Festival of San Fermin, which takes place in Pamplona in the northern province of Navarra each year from 6 to 14 July.

This world-famous event, immortalised by Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is one of Europe’s most notorious and spectacular annual shindigs.

What can I expect to see at the Running of the Bulls?

The nine-day-long festivities are marked by a daily encierro (running of the bulls), in which daring white-clad and red-sashed runners sprint in front bulls let loose on a closed, 850m street course. What follows is an anarchic and terrifying – for participants, spectators and bulls alike – sprint through Pamplona’s cobbled streets.

The run finishes at the Plaza de Toros, where unlucky runners left in the arena have to contend with younger cows keen to toss them around.

About the San Fermin festival

There’s more to San Fermin than the encierro. The town receives hordes of visitors, including more than a few antipodean revellers, and the days are marked with parades and a carnival atmosphere. The festival is not without its casualties – the huge numbers of runners taking part increases the danger – but spectators can observe almost risk-free. Take your Hemingway, take courage and take part.

Planning your trip to Navarra

The Pamplona website has downloadable programmes and other information. Unofficial but very comprehensive advice in Spanish can be found at Sanfermin.

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