DUTCH ROYALS RELAX IN PATAGONIA

28 MARCH 2006

Holland may be her adopted home, but Crown Princess Maxima retains a deep affection for her native Argentina and tries to return as often as possible. This week the attractive 34-year-old was in the far-flung region of Patagonia, holidaying with her mother-in-law Queen Beatrix and husband Willem-Alexander.

On her last trip home in December the royal was here in an official capacity, promoting UN anti-poverty initiatives in the northern province of Jujuy. But the only thing on the agenda for Maxima recently was enjoying the stunning natural vistas on offer.

Wrapped in an elegant cream shawl to keep out the chill, the mother-of-two toured the windswept island of Tierra del Fuego. The main attraction in the land that first seduced Bruce Chatwin is the world's southernmost natural park, a 63,000-hectare stretch of hauntingly beautiful terrain, bordered by Chile to the west.

Here the snow-capped peaks of the Andes drop down into remote valleys dominated by rivers, lakes and a vast natural forest. At its heartland is the 62-mile-long Fagnano Lake, the sixth biggest on the planet, which ends at the Straits of Magellan.

For the adventurous there are numerous opportunities for trekking, horseriding, and mountain biking. The sparsely populated area is also home to a plethora of wildlife such as sea birds, seals and walruses, as well as, whales and penguins.

And while Maxima has often spoken of her warm Latin culture, here visitors are more likely to come across the laconic, salt-of-the earth style favoured by the locals who mainly inhabit the island's capital Ushuaia.

Photo: Rex
In December Maxima was showing off her daughters Amalia and Alexia to the Argentine public. This time the princess was giving her mother-in-law Queen Beatrix a tour of her homeland
Photo: Rex
Maxima's husband Willem-Alexander accompanied his wife and mother on vacation to the stunning region
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