The Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 3,070 m (10,070 ft) above sea level, is northwest of the Piton de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the mountain. While the Piton de la Fournaise is one of Earth’s most active volcanoes, the Piton des Neiges is dormant. Its name is French for “peak of snows”, but snowfall on the summit of the mountain is rare. The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands. Offshore, part of the west coast is characterised by a coral reef system. Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter.
Sugar was traditionally the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is now an important source of income. The island’s remote location combined with its stable political alignment with Europe makes it a key location for satellite receiving stations and naval navigation.
Unemployment is a major problem on Réunion, although the situation has improved markedly since the beginning of the 2000s.
In 2014, 40% of the population lived below the poverty line (defined by INSEE as 60% of Metropolitan France’s median income; in 2014 the poverty line for a family of two parents and two young children was €2,064 (US$2,743) per month).
Rum distillation contributes to the island’s economy. A “Product of France”, it is shipped to Europe for bottling, then shipped to consumers around the world.
The island has an extensive system of paved roads.
Roland Garros Airport serves the island, handling flights to mainland France, India, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania, Comoros, Seychelles, South Africa, China and Thailand. Pierrefonds Airport, a smaller airport, has some flights to Mauritius and Madagascar. Air Austral is the local carrier providing the most flights.
In 2019 a light rail system was proposed to link Le Barachois with the airport.
Flag of Réunion:
The country uses the flag of France, the national flag of its mother country. Although the federal period of France installed a number of flags of the metropolitan regions, Réunion does not have a separate official flag.
The Vexillological Association of Réunion selected a flag in 2003. It depicts the volcano of Fournaise, bedecked by gold sunbeams. It was designed in 1974 by Guy Pignolet with help of Jean Finck and Didier Finck who called it Lö Mahavéli but it really started to be promoted once the association chose it in 2003. It does not have official recognition but since 2014, it is flying on top of many public buildings after several city councils have taken the decision to do so.