Non-doped and La-doped ZnTiO3 nanoparticles were successfully synthesized via a modified sol–gel method. The synthesized nanoparticles were structurally characterized by PXRD, UV-vis DRS, FT-IR, SEM-EDS, TEM, Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy. The results show that doping of La into the framework of ZnTiO3 has a strong influence on the physico-chemical properties of the synthesized nanoparticles. XRD results clearly show that the non-doped ZnTiO3 exhibits a hexagonal phase at 800 °C, whereas the La-doped ZnTiO3 exhibits a cubic phase under similar experimental conditions. In spite of the fact that it has a large ionic radius, the La is efficiently involved in the evolution process by blocking the crystal growth and the cubic to hexagonal transformation in ZnTiO3. Interestingly the absorption edge of the La-doped ZnTiO3 nanoparticles shifted from the UV region to the visible region. The photocatalytic activity of the La-doped ZnTiO3 nanoparticles was evaluated for the degradation of Rhodamine B under sunlight irradiation. The optimum photocatalytic activity was obtained for 2 atom% La-doped ZnTiO3, which is much higher than that of the non-doped ZnTiO3 as well as commercial N-TiO2. A possible mechanism for the degradation of Rhodamine B over La-doped ZnTiO3 was also discussed by trapping experiments. More importantly, the reusability of these nanoparticles is high. Hence La-doped ZnTiO3 nanoparticles can be used as efficient photocatalysts for environmental applications.