William and Kate to visit Bhutan in spring, Palace says

image source, PA

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will make an official visit to Bhutan this spring, Kensington Palace has announced.

It will be the royal couple's first visit to the Himalayan kingdom.

While visiting the country, William and Catherine will meet Bhutan's king and queen, who married in 2011.

The trip, at the request of the UK government, will coincide with their previously announced official tour of India.

It was also announced that Prince Harry will visit Nepal this spring, the BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt said.

Bhutan, located between India and China, has a population of about 750,000 people.

Tourists were first allowed into the country in the 1970s, while it is known for its "Gross National Happiness" index - an alternative to GDP - which measures personal happiness as opposed to economic growth.

The capital Thimphu does not have traffic lights and television was only introduced in the late 1990s.

In March 2008, Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy and the king relinquished his absolute powers.

image source, AFP
image caption, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and Queen Jetsun Pema of Bhutan are expecting their first child this year

King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk - who became king in 2006 - and Queen Jetsun Pema married in a lavish ceremony in 2011 at a monastic fortress in the Himalayan nation.

They are expecting their first child early this year.

The Oxford-educated king and his wife, who also studied at a British university, visited London a few weeks after their wedding and met the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at their London home, Clarence House.

Previous royal visits to Bhutan include a visit by the Duke of York in 2010, and a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1998.

Although Prince Harry's Nepal trip will be his first visit to the country, the prince said he had long wanted to visit the nation due to his admiration and respect for the Gurkha troops he served with in Afghanistan.

While the trip was also arranged at the request of the government, Prince Harry said he was keen to see progress with the country's rebuilding effort following the earthquake in April last year.

The last visit by a member of the Royal Family to Nepal was by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal in 2000.

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