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Words by Mr Gavin Brett

Has there been a better time to escape to a mountain? Global economic misery and the onset of winter are two perfect excuses to lose the shackles and head for the hills. Thankfully, that's a doddle, with more and more of mother nature's horizon-smashing terrain opening up to visitors. Where once there stood only drafty, ramshackle log cabins, there's now sympathetically developed five-star retreats nestling in world-class national parks and nature reserves teeming with wildlife. The log cabins remain, just with 21st-century comforts: iPads, flatscreen TVs and, most merciful of all, insulation. Outside might be rugged, but inside it's refinement all the way.

The traditional, horse trail mountain resorts of North America still dominate, but holiday explorers are pushing on into previously inhospitable areas of the planet, where an eco-development boom awaits. Gorilla track in conservation-minded east Africa, safari by elephant in the mountainous borders of northern Thailand, spot pumas in Brazil or relax by yourself - not a soul in sight - high in the Patagonian Andes. It's all out there waiting for you. Click onwards for the ultimate mountain escapes...

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