We consider the problem of interpolating a surface based on sparse data such as individual points or level lines. We derive interpolators satisfying a list of desirable properties with an emphasis on preserving the geometry and characteristic features of the contours while ensuring smoothness across level lines. We propose an anisotropic third-order model and an efficient method to adaptively estimate both the surface and the anisotropy. Our experiments show that the approach outperforms AMLE and higher-order total variation methods qualitatively and quantitatively on real-world digital elevation data. © 2013 Springer-Verlag.