The area is located in the mountainous Preanger region of Java at an elevation of 351 metres (1,151 feet). On April 5, 1982, the volcano Gunung Galunggung erupted about 24 km from the city, causing major damage through lahar and ash projection, and forcing a temporary evacuation of the area.
The population of the entire regency (the city and rural area around it) is about 1.58 million. Like most of West Java, it is mostly populated by Muslim, ethnically Sundanese people, with a small Chinese Indonesian minority. The city is sometimes called the "City of a Thousand Pesantren," for its many Islamic religious schools.
The area is known for producing silk goods printed with batik, paper umbrellas, and handbags woven by hand from bamboo and pandanus leaves. The production of handicrafts for domestic and international consumption is an important local industry; in 1998 and 1999, export of handicrafts earned 2.6 billion rupiah for the region.
The regency was a major centre of early support and organization for Darul Islam, a resistance group formed in 1948 to resist Dutch attempts to retake Java after World War II, and, after the Dutch were defeated, to establish a state in Indonesia governed by Islamic law.
The city of Tasikmalaya was the site of a widely-reported riot in late December 1996. Four people were killed and several churches and dozens of mostly Chinese-owned businesses were destroyed in the violence, which was triggered by allegations of police brutality, and over frustration with allegedly corrupt local government officials. The event was among the earliest of many riots with religion- and class-based undertones that occurred in Java during the late 1990s.