Pisco is a Quechua word that means "bird." The area is often visited because of the concentration of marine animals and birds at the Paracas National Reserve, or the Peruvian Galápagos. At the reserve there are the Islas Ballestas, a collection of islands which are off limits to people, but boat tours can get close to. The Chincha Islands are also near its coast. Many bird species can be seen in the islands including pelicans, penguins, cormorants, Peruvian boobies, and Inca terns, as well as sea lions, turtles, dolphins, and whales.
Another attraction in the area is El Candelabro, a giant lamp dug in the rough sand in the method used by the creators of the Nazca Lines.
In the area where Pisco sits flourished one of the major ancient civilizations in Peru, the Paracas culture. Due to its ease of access, and its crossroads to the Andes the Spaniards may have considered making Pisco the capital, before they decided on Lima.
In the city is the Plaza de Armas, where people buy tejas, small sweets made from pecans and assorted dried fruits. Many different building that surround the Plaza are the statue of José de San Martín, the mansion he lived in, and the Municipal Palace. Other building in the city is the heavily baroque Iglesia de la Compañía, begun in 1689, features a superb carved pulpit and gold-leaf altarpiece.
Near the town, just off the road to Ayacucho, lies the large, well-preserved Inca site of Tambo Colorado.
The city of Pisco experiences hot arid climate, with warm temperatures and extremely low rainfall prevailing all year-round. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Pisco has a mild desert climate, abbreviated BWh on climate maps. The average maximum temperature in the city is 23.7 °C (74.7 °F), ranging from a February peak of 27.7 °C (81.9 °F) to a July low of 20.2 °C (68.4 °F). The average minimum temperature in the city is 15.8 °C (60.4 °F), fluctuating from 19.5 °C (67.1 °F) to 12.9 °C (55.2 °F) in the months of February and August respectively. Rainfall is incredulously low; the average annual rainfall total amounts to a mere 1.5 mm (0.1 in).
Pisco is served by the Capitán FAP Renán Elías Olivera Airport (IATA: PIO, ICAO: SPSO), located in Pisco (PIO). This international airport shares facilities with the Peruvian Air Force and is also designated as a back-up airport to the Jorge Chávez International Airport (IATA: LIM, ICAO: SPIM) in Lima, Peru. On September 4, 2012, President Ollanta Humala was present for the beginning of renovations to the airport, which is expected to be operational by 2015 with the ability to receive an anticipated 400,000 passengers a year in 2017.
The city was very near the epicenter of the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake which struck south central Peru on Wednesday August 15, 2007. Media officials reported that 80% of the city was destroyed, including the central San Clemente Cathedral of Pisco, located in Plaza de Armas in which mass was taking place at the time of the earthquake. The resulting dead account for a reported 30 percent of the total fatalities caused by the earthquake. Several hundred more were killed throughout the city Several years on the city is still recovering from the damage done during the earthquake.