Abstract Effects of boron (B) and/or zirconium (Zr) doping on photocatalytic activity of sol–gel derived titania (TiO2) powders were investigated. A conventional, non-hydrous sol–gel technique was applied to synthesize the B, Zr doped/co-doped TiO2 powders. Doping was made at molar ratios of Ti/B=1 and Ti/Zr=10. Sol–gel derived xero-gels were calcined at 500°C for 3h. The crystal chemistry and the morphology of the undoped and B, Zr doped/co-doped TiO2 nanoparticles were investigated using X-ray diffractometer and scanning electron microscope. Nano-scale (9–46nm) TiO2 crystallites were obtained after calcination. Doping and co-doping decreased the crystallite size. Photocatalytic activity was measured through the degradation of methylene blue (MB) under 1h UV-irradiation using a UV–vis spectrophotometer. Results revealed that B doping into anatase caused the formation of oxygen vacancies, whereas Zr addition caused Ti substitution. Both B and Zr ions had a profound effect on the particle morphology and photocatalytic activity of TiO2. The photocatalytic activity of B and Zr doped TiO2 particles increased from 27% to 77% and 57%, respectively. The best activity (88.5%) was achieved by co-doping.