It’s the most important literary gathering of the year in Colombia and as Hay Festival Cartagena reaches its 12th edition, this historic port city once again welcomes some of literature’s big names, including, for his second time, Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa.

For three agenda-filled days starting January 26, the Old City will host those who love books and want to meet their favorite authors. But, while you can attend lectures in the Adolfo Mejía Theatre and get your hardcopies signed, Hay Festival, is as much about exchanging ideas as it is about mingling with the highflying intelligentsia. Some of the topics to be discussed this year cover plenty of terrain: current events, political oppression and freedom of expression.

Among the authors who will attend Hay for this edition are Hisham Matar, the Libyan-British author of ‘The Country of Men’, shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, and regular contributor to The Independent, Guardian and New York Times; as well as Jonathan Shaw, the New York tattoo artist and cult author. Shaw will discuss why writing is more than a skin-deep profession.

Philippe Sands, Professor of Law at University College London and author of East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide will discuss the tragedy of Syria and other crimes against humanity. Spain is represented by writers Fernando Aramburu and Luisgé Martín.

The best-selling Swiss novelist Jöel Dicker, author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair – and work translated into 32 languages – will discuss thriller as fiction genre, and what went into his writing to sell more than two million copies.

Writers from across the hemisphere will be at Hay, including Chile’s Alberto Fuguet. Colombia’s most respected essayists, novelists and columnists will be represented in Enrique Serrano, Alfredo Molano, Santiago Gamboa, Ricardo Silva and Juan Gabriel Vásquez, among others.

With so much happening on the world stage, Hay Festival 2017 has invited policy makers and activists to hold an open debate on the defining issues of our times. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek economist and finance minister who steered his nation through the 2015 monetary crisis joins Misha Glenny, the British journalist and organized crime expert, and Dutch human rights activist Boris Dittrich at the festival. Concert pianist and composer James Rhodes will present his autobiographical work Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication and Music.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution and to commemorate the event that led to the downfall of the imperial Romonovs, Hay will devote a special lecture series to the Revolution, presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore, the British historian, television presenter and award-winning author of the historical novels Young Stalin and The Romanovs: 1631-1918.

After three days of talks, book signings and trying to resolve some of our collective issues (Trump will be discussed generously, no doubt), Hay says farewell with a bambuco concert in honor of the Mono Nuñez Festival that takes place every June in the capital of Tolima, Ibagué.

If you want the Hay events on the go, the organizers have created the Hay Festival 2017 app, to offer real-time updates and information regarding the conferences. The app, available for iOS and Android, is available at the App Store and Play Store for free. It’s also useful for knowing last minute changes to venues and the guest speaker line-up. The App also includes information regarding Hay Festival Medellín and Hay Festival Riohacha.

One of Colombia’s largest publishing houses, Panamericana, will be at the festival and has invited several of its bestselling authors and graphic artists to present their works, among them, Brigitte Labbé, Enrique Rojo and the editorial cartoonist ‘Matador’, proving, once again, why Hay is such an obligatory stop for the world’s influential writers and artists.