Apatite fission track (AFT) and (U-Th)/He (AHe) thermochronology have been combined to constrain the exhumation history of the SE Carpathians. Cooling ages generally decrease from Cretaceous for the internal basement nappes (AFT ages), to Miocene-Quaternary (AFT and AHe, respectively) for the external sedimentary wedge. The AFT and AHe data show a Paleogene age cluster, which confirms a suspected but never demonstrated tectonic event. The new data furthermore suggest that the SE Carpathians have been affected by a middle Miocene exhumation phase related to continental collision, which occurred at rates of ∼0.8 mm/yr, similar to the one previously inferred for the East Carpathians. The SE Carpathian tectonic evolution, however, is overprinted by two younger exhumation events in the Pliocene-Pleistocene. The first exhumation phase (latest Miocene-early Pliocene) occurred at high exhumation rates (∼1.7 mm/yr) and is interpreted as a tectonic event and/or associated with a sea level drop in the Paratethys basins during the Messinian low stand. The youngest recorded tectonic phase suggests rapid Pleistocene exhumation (∼1.6 mm/yr) and is interpreted to represent crustal-scale shortening different in mechanics from collisional processes. The data suggest that the SE Carpathians did not develop as a typical double-vergent orogenic wedge; instead, exhumation was related to a foreland-vergent sequence of nappe stacking during collision and was subsequently followed by a large out-of-sequence shortening event truncating the already locked collisional boundary. © 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.