Q: We're going to be in Buñol, Spain, at the end of the month for the Tomatina festival. What are the must-see attractions and monuments of interest around town? We're going to be there for a few days and would also like to go hiking and trekking, if possible.
A: Hundreds of visitors throng Buñol on the last Wednesday in August, when more than 100 tonnes of ripe tomatoes go flying through the air and paint everything red at Plaza del Pueblo, the main square, but the town isn't much of a tourist draw the rest of the year.
At first glance, this quiet place doesn't seem to have much going on, but once you're done with the world's largest annual tomato fight, it takes a few days of exploring to appreciate the relaxed vibe and old-world quirkiness.
Located about 40 kilometres from the city of Valencia, Buñol is known by its biggest and best recognised landmark - Castillo de Buñol, an imposing 13th-century citadelperched high on a hill and looking down on the huddle of tiled roofs in the old town and across the green valley and wooded hills.
The old town itself is worth a day of exploring: wander through the intricate network of cobblestoned streets, such as the Calla de la Sarten ("frying pan street"), lined with century-old mansions, dozens of cafes and small restaurants, shops and the odd boutique and antique store. In the middle of town is El Salvador Church, which houses an archaelogical museum whose halls are worth investigating, considering that Buñol lays claim to a 50,000-year-old history.
But perhaps Buñol's prettiest feature is its fountains - nearly 300 ornate pieces of sculpture that are scattered all over the town's large, well-maintained gardens and beautiful parks.
Because the town lies on the Buñol River and is surrounded by several mountain ranges, there are plenty of hiking trails and cycling routes to choose from. Interesting sites to visit include Alta cave and the well-known Turche cave, which has a 60m waterfall that is usually in full flow during the rainy season (spring to late autumn).
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