Zirconia samples doped with 3 mol% yttria were prepared by gel precipitation from a metal chloride solution and their sintering behaviour compared with that of a commercial powder. Dense (relative density 97%) nanoscale ceramics with a mean grain size of 60 nm are obtained after sintering at 1050°C for 7h. Important densification mechanisms in the initial sintering stage are grain boundary sliding and grain boundary diffusion. Grain growth in the final sintering stage seems to be impurity drag controlled. Extremely low activation energies are obtained for both densification and grain growth in the initial sintering stages. Special attention has been paid to the effect of aggregate size of the precursor powder on the final grain size.