This small district several times was the capital city of some ruling states. It was a main center of the province of Turuberan as part of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia. The city changed hands on several occasions between the Arabs and the Byzantines, in the early Middle Ages. In 1054, while under Byzantine administration, it was captured and sacked by the Seldjuk Turks after an 8 days siege. It was fortified in the early 14th century by the Vizir Ilkhanid Ali Shah. Erciş was part of the Karakoyunlu state and later became a part of the Ottoman Empire. It was moved to a new location called Alada in 1841, due to floods. In 1915, the Russian forces captured the city as part of the Caucasus Campaign. They were replaced by Russian Armenian troops after December 1917. These were eventually driven out by the Ottomans on April 1, 1918.
The city suffered a major earthquake on October 23, 2011.
The district has total of 2,115 km² area and is surrounded by Muradiye on the east, Bitlis on the west, Ağrı on the north and the Lake Van on the south. There are 143 settlement areas, including 3 municipalities, 14 districts, 2 subdistricts, 85 villages and 39 other entities.
It is one of the most developed cities in eastern Turkey and it is the place where the folk songs are still alive. Many kinds of fruits and vegetables are raised. Planting of poplar trees is widely seen in the city and surroundings.
The total population of the district is 145,229 and spread among the capital city and villages. The rural population is 66,832, while the urban population is 78,397. Population density is 47/km². The population of the city of Erciş is 77,065 inhabitants.