A facile synthesis of benzothiazole- and benzoxazole-substituted pyridine-2-carboxylic acids has been developed. These ligands form mononuclear nine-coordinate complexes [Ln(κ3-ligand)2(κ1-ligand)(H2O)2] with light and heavy trivalent lanthanides, as established from the X-ray analysis of 11 complexes. A crystal structure of a minor product, the anhydrous nine-coordinate complex [Eu(κ3-L)3], has also been determined. Photophysical studies of gadolinium chelates indicate that the triplet states of the new ligands are located at 20400-21400 cm-1. The ligands are good sensitizers of the europium luminescence with ligand-to-metal energy transfer efficiency in the range 60-100%. The overall quantum yields of the europium emission are substantial, 12-14% in the solid state, and increase to 29-39% upon replacement of two metal-coordinated water molecules with dimethylsulfoxide in solution. The luminescence of near-infrared emitting lanthanides is also sensitized, but quantum yields are much smaller, reaching 0.17% for neodymium and 1.25% for ytterbium in DMSO, while energy transfer efficiencies for these two ions are below 50%.