GAUHATI, India (AP) — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge trekked through blue pine forests to visit a famed Buddhist monastery in Bhutan on Friday during their weeklong tour of South Asia.
Taktsang Monastery, also known as Tiger's Nest, clings to the side of a cliff. Once Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, reached it, they greeted monks in maroon robes and lit butter-fueled ritual lamps.
They listened to a guide tell the history and legends surrounding Buddhism's most sacred monastery complex in Bhutan, built in 1692 at an altitude of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet). According to one legend, an 8th-century Buddhist master flew to the site on the back of a tigress and subdued a local demon before staying three months to meditate.
It normally takes locals more than two hours to make the steep climb, but the royal couple — climbing hand-in-hand — were a bit faster. "The royal couple climbed very fast," Bhutan's information secretary, Kinley Dorji, told the Associated Press.
Halfway up, the prince told reporters the view was "absolutely stunning."
Horses were kept at the ready in case the royals became tired, but they did not use them.
William's father, Prince Charles, had planned to make the same hike in 1998, but he was injured in a polo match, so instead he stopped before the ascent and painted a scenic picture in watercolor.
On Thursday, the British royals met with Bhutan's popular king and queen and practiced archery, a national sport in the Himalayan country.
The British royals are on a weeklong tour of India and Bhutan. They have already visited Mumbai, New Delhi and the wildlife reserve of Kaziranga National Park in the northeast Indian state of Assam, where they hoped to raise awareness of the plight of endangered rhinos and other animals threatened by poaching and habitat loss.
On Saturday, they plan to return to India and visit the Taj Mahal, retracing the steps of a 1992 visit to the monument of love by William's mother, the late Princess Diana.